J.T. Noone's first experience in a Major League Soccer game came as a bit of a surprise.
Noone, a Temple University alum and former player on the Ocean City Barons, trained as an unsigned player for the Philadelphia Union for six months. He got called up July 14 for a friendly match against Celtic FC.
Noone found himself wearing a Union jersey for the first time just three days shy of his 22nd birthday. He saw playing time in the second half of the Union's first-ever international friendly.
"I wasn't expecting to play," Noone said in a telephone interview Monday. "When I got out there I was really excited and a little bit nervous."
Noone said his emotions were all over the place, playing his first professional soccer game against a team he watched his entire life.
He must have made a good impression on the Union staff, because on July 30 the team announced it had signed the 6-foot, 160-pound midfielder.
Along with training with the Union, Noone also spent time playing for the club's USL Second Division affiliate, the Harrisburg City Islanders. The relationship allows Philadelphia to loan players to Harrisburg on a game-to-game basis for increased playing time.
"(Noone) worked very hard during our preseason and his time at Harrisburg (City Islanders)," Union coach Peter Nowak said. "So, we want to reward his dedication to our team and our club by having him as a member of the Union for years to come."
Noone said he knew he could have be offered a contract at any time during his trial with the club, but it didn't take away from the excitement of finally getting officially signed.
MLS and team policies prohit releasing of contract information.
As a junior at Temple, Noone became the first Owl in 22 years to be awarded All-American honors when he was selected to the NSCAA Second Team All-America squad in 2008.
Noone played for the Ocean City FC, in 2009. He scored three goals and had three assists during 16 regular-season games.
"The moment he joined us, we knew it'd be a big summer for him," Ocean City FC coach Neil Holloway said. "We gave him an opportunity in the PDL because we knew he could push on and try and get in the draft and eventually play in the MLS."
Noone was a key contributer in one of the Barons' best seasons to date. He scored a goal in the first and second rounds of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, including a game-winning penalty kick in overtime in a 1-0 upset over the USL-2's Real Maryland Monarchs.
During the U.S. Open Cup, Noone got his first chance to play against the pros. He started and played 90 minutes of the club's 2-0 loss at D.C. United in the third round.
The Barons' stellar season also gave Noone more opportunities to be seen by MLS teams.
"The idea of the PDL is to prepare the college kids for the next level and then try to pass them on to the professionals," said Holloway. "We knew it was a good testing ground for him."
Noone called his time in Ocean City a good transition between the college and professional levels.
"It allowed me to keep my skills sharp and it gave me a taste of what it would be like," Noone said. "It was exactly what I needed last summer."
Noone is the Union's first local product. He grew up in the Harrisburg, Pa., area and is excited to not only play locally, but to play for a new franchise. The Union (6-11-6) is in its inaugural season.
"This is exactly where I wanted to be," Noone said.
Noone's first league match in a Union jersey will be Sunday, when DC United hosts Philadelphia at 2 p.m. The regular season ends in October.
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