It has been 10 days since Sounders FC’s last MLS match, and over that down time personnel issues have dominated.
There was the arrival of new designated player Blaise Nkufo. The way has been paved for the apparent departure of original DP Freddie Ljungberg. And there have been multiple worldwide reports that Uruguayan midfielder Alvaro Fernandez is about to join the club.
Long before any of those, there was the case of Sounders midfielder Pat Noonan, who has learned all about surprising personnel moves.
When training camp began, Noonan figured to be in the visitor’s locker room of Qwest Field tonight when the Colorado Rapids visit. But the Rapids released him before the start of the season – a move he still doesn’t fully understand.
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“I thought I had a good preseason,” Noonan said. “You never expect to be let go when you think you’re in good form. I thought I was a big part of their preseason and moving forward. But it is what it is. I’m very happy, and happy to be here, to be quite honest.”
Noonan was traded to Colorado from Columbus in June 2009. He scored two goals for the Rapids in 17 games, including nine starts.
After his surprise release, he was picked up by Seattle, where he has played 12 games with eights starts. He has one goal and one assist this MLS season, while also scoring in Seattle’s 3-0 friendly win over Boca Juniors.
“I’m getting more minutes,” he said. “Coach seems to see me fitting into the lineup, so that’s nice. I’ll just continue to work hard for this team and hopefully years to come. It’s a great team, a great atmosphere, and we’ve got a good group of guys that I think can turn this around and make it into the playoffs.”
And with Ljungberg’s time in Seattle seemingly about to end as abruptly as Noonan’s time in Colorado, there could be even more minutes available for an attacking midfielder.
“That remains to be seen,” Noonan said. “Whatever happens with that situation, we’ll move forward and wish him the best – or if he’s still here, continue forward with him. For myself, if I get more minutes, so be it. If not, I’ll just be ready to go when my name is called upon, whether it’s outside or on top.”
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid likes Noonan’s ability to fill either role.
“Noonan adds some versatility,” Schmid said. “He’s comfortable playing up front. He’s played in a wide midfield role for us. He’s willing to do whatever we need right now to help this team. The game in D.C., I thought he did a good job for us wide right. He gave us a little bit of a different look, and as much as possible we want to try to keep that team together because they got a good result.”
That means Noonan will likely be back in the lineup tonight when the Sounders meet Colorado in a game crucial to their playoff hopes.
Seattle opens the game out of playoff position and four points behind the Rapids in the Western Conference.
Noonan said that playoff race gives him more incentive than any sort of personal grudge against the club that released him.
“I have some old friends on the team, so it will be nice to compete against them,” he said. “It’s a big game: They’re ahead of us in the standings. We need these three points. We’re in good form. We’ve been playing well of late and we’re at home. These are three important points. But for me, it’s just another game where I hope to get in and play effectively.”
COLORADO RAPIDS (6-4-5, 23 points) at SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (5-8-4, 19 points)
7:30 p.m., Qwest Field; TV: Fox Soccer Channel.
RADIO: 97.3 FM (1210-AM in Spanish).
HEAD TO HEAD: 1-1-1. Colorado won the May 29 meeting, 1-0, on a Conor Casey goal in the 63rd minute.
TEAM LEADERS: For Colorado – goals 7, Casey; assists 3, three players tied; shots 35, Casey; shots on goal 18, Omar Cummings; goals against average, 0.93, Matt Pickens. For Seattle – G 6, Fredy Montero; A 7, Montero; S 48, Montero; SOG 17, Montero; GAA 1.39, Kasey Keller.
NOTES: Seattle is 3-4-2 at home; Colorado is 3-3-2 on the road. … All four Colorado losses have come by 1-0 scores. … Sounders designated player Blaise Nkufo is expected to make his MLS debut. … Casey is tied for fourth in the league in goals. Six of his seven goals have come on penalty kicks. … Half of the 14 goals allowed by Colorado this season have come on set pieces: three free kicks, two PKs, and two corners. … Seattle defender Leo Gonzalez is suspended due to yellow-card accumulation and defender Tyrone Marshall will be suspended for one league game if he is cautioned today. … Colorado midfielder Ciaran O’Brien, who played at Decatur High School in Federal Way, the USL Sounders and the Tacoma Tide, is out with a hip sprain. … Seattle is seeking its first win this season against a Western Conference opponent. … The game is sold out.
NEXT: Seattle meets Metapn of El Salvador in a CONCACAF Champions League preliminary game at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Qwest Field.
Don Ruiz, staff writer