Temple’s all-time assist leader J.T. Noone recently spent his first professional season between the Union and Harrisburg Islanders.
Former men’s soccer player J.T. Noone wrapped up his first season with Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union on Sunday, and while he never made an appearance in a match with the team, he still had an active year.
“It’s been enjoyable for me. I’ve been working hard in practice, and I really like the guys, so I had a good season overall,” Noone said. “You’re always picking stuff up every day, like their vision and the things that come easy to them from their experience, and you start to incorporate it into your own game.”
Temple’s all-time assist leader signed with the Union in July, but he made his professional debut two months earlier with the Harrisburg City Islanders of the United Soccer League’s second division. The Islanders are part of an affiliate club-partnership with the Union that allows the team to loan players to Harrisburg on a game-by-game basis.
This is what the Union did with Noone, who appeared in 15 games with the Islanders, totaling two assists and 1,322 minutes of play.
“They wanted to let me develop with their affiliate, so I could get some experience and playing time,” Noone said.
On July 14, Noone had a unique experience with the Islanders when the team played an exhibition match with the Union. Because of his affiliation with both teams, Noone played one half with the Islanders and the other with the Union.
“It didn’t really feel right from the beginning, like something was wrong during the game,” Noone said. “It was still good to have that affiliation for the club, and it helped to be in that exhibition.”
Noone is not the first former Owl to move on to professional soccer. Six total players from coach Dave MacWilliams’ era have moved on to the professional ranks. Prior to Noone, the most recent one of those players was Ryan Heins, a 2007 alumnus who is currently with the Rochester Rhinos of the United States Soccer Federation Division-2. Tony Donatelli, a 2005 alumnus, is also in the USSF D-2 with the Montreal Impact. Patrick Hannigan, the current volunteer assistant coach for the Owls, also has had some professional experience.
For MacWilliams, Noone’s professional potential did not become apparent until his junior year, when Noone set a new record with 13 assists in a season.
“That was when J.T. really came into his own,” MacWilliams said. “He always had the technical ability, but there were other things he had to develop to get up to that level.”
The main thing he had to do was simply grow. The 6-foot, 160-pound Noone was much smaller when he played for Central Dauphin High School. Temple was one of the few Division-I schools to look at Noone, MacWilliams said, describing a young Noone as a “thin, wiry kid.”
“J.T. wasn’t a highly sought-after player coming out of high school,” MacWilliams said. “But he was a good player and a soccer junkie who couldn’t get enough of it, and he’s worked extremely hard to get to where he is.”
Noone finished his Temple career last year as the all-time leader in career assists with 26, earning first team all-Atlantic Ten Conference honors, as well as being named a NSCAA All-American. At Temple, Noone was the main playmaker for the Owls, but he had to adjust to life as a role player with the Union.
“J.T. was a player that saw the ball a lot and was involved, and I think he probably needs that to be successful and to make an impact,” MacWilliams said. “I think it’s tough as a rookie, where you’re coming in and not seeing the ball, and you’re not the focal point.”
“It’s an adjustment,” he added.
“That’s just how it is when you join a team where everyone around you is really good,” Noone said. “You just have to work hard and do what the coaches ask you to do, and when you do that, good things will happen, so I haven’t been too worried about that at all.”
To make an impression with the team, Noone and MacWilliams both said Noone needs to make the most out of the opportunities he’s given.
“Everyday in practice, you’re getting better and working hard and trying to improve your game in ways that you haven’t done so before,” Noone said.
“He’s got to be out there training harder than the guys who are already on the team,” MacWilliams added. “The practice sessions are his forum to go out and perform, and he needs to do more than the guys who are playing and are seeing time.”
Noone is only signed with the Union through this season, so the team will re-evaluate where he stands on its roster.
Noone has attended a few of his former team’s matches, and MacWilliams went to exhibition matches that Noone played in.
“We talk, and I tell him about the things that he should be doing,” MacWilliams said. “He’s pretty receptive, and he’s a great kid.”
Noone has yet to establish himself as a fixture on an MLS roster, but he is trying to learn as much as he can to enjoy the experience, he said.
“Every day, I have fun with the game and just try to enjoy things and try to get better,” Noone said.
Brian Dzenis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.