"It was really a perfect match": Pat Noonan leads FC Cincinnati into new era

Now officially announced and introduced as FC Cincinnati's next head coach, Pat Noonan finds himself at the helm of arguably the biggest rebuild ahead of the 2022 MLS season.

The former Philadelphia Union assistant coach takes over a club that's finished bottom of the league table for three years running, struggling for results despite investment on and off the field.

That led new general manager Chris Albright, who worked with Noonan in Philadelphia, to seek a candidate with proven experience within the league. And thus emerged Noonan after being Jim Curtin's top assistant in Philadelphia for the last four seasons, where the Union have become a perennial Eastern Conference contender and Supporters' Shield winners in 2020.

Now it's about crafting an on-field product that matches the enthusiasm of one of the league's most passionate fan bases, one that consistently packs new, state-of-the-art TQL Stadium.

"We prioritized MLS experience," Albright said. "We met with a lot of fantastic candidates, vetted a lot of candidates, had finalists come in the market, meet ownership. In the end, Pat was the best choice for the job. He rose above the other candidates. Obviously his record in this league and his record of always being a consistent winner, certainly his knowledge of how we want to play, his diligence and hard work and effort he puts into the game, and really the cultural fit for ownership, for this city, for this place – it was really a perfect match in that way."

This is Noonan's first head coaching job, but he's been in the league for almost two decades, first during a lengthy playing career that included stops with the Columbus Crew, New England Revolution, Seattle Sounders and LA Galaxy. Since starting his coaching career after retiring from playing in 2012, Noonan spent a combined eight seasons as an MLS assistant between stints with the Galaxy and Philadelphia, also serving as a US men's national team assistant under Bruce Arena.

Noonan believes that MLS know-how will prove vital in changing the culture in Cincinnati, navigating all the variables that come with managing an MLS club. Neither of FC Cincinnati's previous two head coaches before Noonan, Dutch imports Ron Jan and Jaap Stam, had prior experience in the league.

"When you don't know the league and the challenges that you face as far as the roster construction, as far as the travel, the conditions you face in certain markets – altitude, heat, humidity – that can be tough to navigate," Noonan said. "And I think when you've been a part of that, and I've been part of it for 18 years, you find ways to succeed. And the experiences along the way are valuable to figuring things out. So I think that's where my previous experience as a player and a coach in this league have positioned me to be ready to take over as the head coach for FC Cincinnati."

In preparing for this opportunity, Noonan also highlighted the knowledge he accumulated after working under two of the league's most well-regarded coaches in Arena and Curtin.

"There are a lot of similarities in our personalities and our characteristics in how we lead. I wouldn't be in this position without the opportunity that Bruce gave me," Noonan said. "His mentorship, being around the most successful coach in US soccer history to start my coaching career was invaluable. It allowed me to grow and figure out my own voice and have my own opinions.

"But it certainly helped watching him in the day-to-day, behind the scenes and how you go about not only constructing a roster but how you go about leading your staff, your players, the media, management, all of it. He did that in such a professional and successful way that it allowed me to learn very quickly what a successful professional environment looked like."

As for how his Philadelphia tenure translates into how he leads Cincinnati, Noonan highlighted Curtin's player-friendly approach and navigating relationships.

"In my experience with Jim, which is a different model as far as what we had with the Philadelphia Union, his ability to lead the players in a way where maybe with a limited budget, there's nobody who gets more out of their players than these two coaches," Noonan said. "He gets the buy-in from everybody. But he also gets the buy-in from his staff and he gives us a voice in a way that everybody feels valued. And that's so important in this line of work, that everybody has value and feels like they have importance. That creates motivation, that makes you want to come and work for those coaches."