ussoccer.com: It doesn’t seem like it has been that long since we’ve seen you, but welcome back. How has the first week of training gone?
Pat Noonan: “The first couple days we had guys coming in at different times, so it was a slow start. We finally have everyone together, and the team is looking sharp. I picked up a bit of an injury, but I got back into the mix today.”
ussoccer.com: How did you get hurt?
PN: “I got hit on the top of my foot. I had a collision with my bully of a teammate Matt Reis. It feels like a bone bruise, but I think it’s fine.”
ussoccer.com: Not that it’s unusual, but it seems like this camp in particular has started out very competitively.
PN: “Yeah, it’s been very competitive. You can tell with the short scrimmages we’ve had that guys are battling for spots. It’s important to have good days back-to-back out here. You can’t afford a bad session. Everyone is trying to earn a spot, and everyone here is capable of it.”
ussoccer.com: It also seems like a group that really enjoys being around each other. Is that one of the things that players like about being here?
PN: “This has been the most bonding I’ve seen in any of the trips. A lot of playing video games, a lot of card games. When you come into these camps, you’re with guys you haven’t seen in a while and you’re catching up. There are bunch of different characters out there and it’s fun to be together.”
ussoccer.com: You have been used in different roles with both the Revs and the national team. Realizing that ‘on the field’ is good enough, is there a position you prefer to play in with the U.S. team?
PN: “To be honest, for myself it’s up in the air. Every camp is different, and it depends on which guys are called in. In this camp, there’s only three players besides myself who are forwards, so I think I have a chance of being up top. Wherever I get a chance on the field, I’m going to try and take advantage of it.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve appeared in six of eight games the national team has played this year, and you finally got your first World Cup qualifier under your belt. And a pretty interesting one at that, playing against Mexico in Mexico …
PN: “Yeah, it was pretty interesting. It was a very intense, very cool atmosphere. I think you’re kind of in awe a bit when you’re watching the game, and then when you get on the field you forget about it. When I got out there, I was just trying to catch my breath because I was very winded. It’s tough to get in there late in the game and try to make something happen, especially with the altitude. I thought for that type of game I held my own.”
ussoccer.com: You got a couple more sniffs against Guatemala and Costa Rica, and then you made your first World Cup qualifying start in Panama in very difficult circumstances. How did you rate that performance?
PN: “It was definitely a different atmosphere. That was probably the worst I’ve been with the national team. The first half I just wasn’t sharp. I tried to get into the game as quick as possible, but just didn’t do it. The second half I did a little better holding the ball, but not my best performance.”
ussoccer.com: For your first time, was it hard dealing with the short turn around time in games, the heat, the crowd, and all the other little distractions of a road qualifier?
PN: “I don’t think so. There’s really no excuses. I was anxious and excited to get the start, and I just didn’t step up when I needed to. Those games are going to be quick-paced, and you have to be ready. Everyone has games like that; you just have to bounce back. It was good to be out there for an important victory.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve had a tremendous start to the MLS season, as have the Revolution, which hasn’t been the team’s history in the last few years. With all that momentum built up, does it make it hard to leave the club behind for the month?
PN: “It’s never fun leaving. I love playing with the Revs. Obviously winning helps, but we have a very close group, and a talented one. Right now, it’s a confidence thing. We’re not even playing to the best of our ability, and we’re winning games. Hopefully when we’re at our best we’ll be able to dominate games.”
ussoccer.com: Aside from the remaining World Cup qualifiers, the Gold Cup is the last big push for players trying to earn places with the national team as Germany approaches. Have you set personal goals for the tournament?
PN: “I want to do what I can to get out on the field and impress Bruce. Hopefully I can find a way to get a lot of minutes and contribute to the team’s success. It’s a big push for me. It’s a lot of games, and it’s preparation for the next set of qualifiers. Hopefully I’ll be involved in them.”
ussoccer.com: The Gold Cup in 2002 proved to be a launching point for a few players trying to make the World Cup roster, guys like DaMarcus Beasley and Pablo Mastroeni. Do you think of it in those terms, that this is a tremendous opportunity?
PN: “No question. You get a chance to get four, five or six games to show what you can do in a tough atmosphere, and to let coach know that in a big game you can perform when it’s crunch time. This is obviously a big stretch for a lot of guys.”
ussoccer.com: A great start with the national team, a great start with the Revs …At 24 years old, does this start to feel like a breakout year for you?
PN: “It’s obviously a big year because it’s leading up to Germany. I need to do everything in my power to perform and get onto that team. It’s important that I get it done day in and day out with the Revs. If we keep winning, I’m sure that will let Bruce know what I’m up to.”
ussoccer.com: You’ve gotten past the point where you are getting called in just to get looks and see if you can handle it. You’ve become a regular part of the pool in 2005. Have you reached the point in your mind where you can realistically think ‘if I keep doing what I’m doing, I have real shot at making the World Cup roster’?
PN: “I think so. If you look at the guys that keep coming in, it’s most of the guys that will be on the World Cup team, so I think realistically that if I can perform, I have a shot of being a part of the World Cup."