Best XI – Pat Onstad
You know when you first meet someone and you get a good vibe about him/her and you say to yourself, “I could hang with this person.” Well, that’s exactly what I was thinking three years ago when I first met Pat Onstad, who basically, without using the exact words, called me an idiot before I even got a chance to introduce myself. Back in 2007, I met Pat for the first time following one of the biggest games of his career. The Houston Dynamo had just beaten the New England Revolution 2-1 in D.C. to capture the 2007 MLS Cup, when I ran onto the pitch to get some postgame interviews. That’s when I came across Pat, who agreed to a few questions, and while my cameraman was getting his stuff ready, Pat leans over with a slight smile and says to me, “and you picked New England.” What? Who? How? You see, Pat used to watch “American Soccer,” and the week leading up to the big game, he saw me picking the Revs to win the decisive match. As I said, I had never met the guy before, but the fact that he managed to deliver a good “friendly jab” at my expense, after the biggest game of the season, made me think, “now this is a cool dude.” Being cool under pressure is just one of the few reasons why Pat has been playing professional soccer for 24 years. Yes, 24 years. The Canadian first got paid to play soccer in 1987 by his hometown team, the Vancouver 86ers. Since then, Onstad has played for several clubs, in several leagues. He’s played outdoor, he’s played indoor, he’s played in Canada, the U.S. and even had a short stint in Scotland. He played for Canada in the 1987 FIFA World Youth Championship and was capped by Team Canada 56 times. So by now you must be wondering, “How old is Pat?” Well, let’s just say I can’t tease him because he’s only 7 months older than me. Unfortunately for him, he’s reminded of his age every time he hits the practice pitch as three of his current Dynamo teammates, weren’t even born when he made his senior debut with the Canadian national team in 1988. Folks, if you’ve been playing professional sports for 24 years, that means you must be doing something right, which is exactly what he’s been doing for the Houston Dynamo the past 6-plus seasons. In his first year with the Dynamo/Quakes in 2003, Onstad not only helped the club to the its first MLS Cup, but was also selected as the MLS’ Goalkeeper of the Year and named to the leagues Best XI team. The Canuck would win both individual awards again in 2005. And if that wasn’t enough, from 2003 to 2009 Pat finished first, three times and second, once in goals against average (GAA). In fact, during that span no other goalkeeper in the MLS finished first more then once in that category. As for the team accolades, Pat has 3 MLS Cup titles on his resume including 1 Supporters Shield, 1 U.S. Open Cup, 2 A-League Championships, and 1 CONCACAF Gold Cup. So what do all those numbers mean? It means that whenever Mr. Onstad decides to hang up his boots, which could be after this season, he’ll go down as one of the best goalkeepers in not only MLS history, but also that of North American soccer. Really? Yeah, really. The only reason why you’re probably surprised is because Pat isn’t flashy or very vocal. He just gets the job done and let’s his action and numbers speak for themselves. And while he probably won’t tell you he’s 42, he’s still cool enough to let you know a few things about himself in the latest edition of Best XI. Best XI 1 - Who was your favorite player growing up? Why? Peter Schmeichel. Best at his position 2 - If you weren’t a soccer player, what would you be doing right now? Teaching a grade 6 or 7 class all about Canada and complaining about how some injury kept me from being a professional athlete. 3 - Proudest moment in soccer? Every championship (3 CIAU, CSL, U.S. Open Cup, 2 A-League, Gold Cup, Canadian Amatuer, 3 MLS Cups) and my National Team debut vs Bermuda (2/18/88). 4 - You miss the team plane to the championship title game. You have to drive cross-country to get to the match. Your car can only fit 3 more people to keep you company. Which 3 famous people, past or present, are going with you? Why? My family, because they are my biggest and best supporters, only we need one extra seat! 5 - Something about you people would be surprised to know? If I tell you it won’t be a surprise anymore. 6 - What’s the first thing you bought when you signed your first professional contract? 1983 Brown Honda Accord! 7 - Aside from your current team, which is your favorite soccer club? North America:Vancouver Whitecaps and Outside NA: Manchester United. 8 - A meteor is about to slam into Earth, you’re allowed to take only 3 things with you on a spaceship out of here, what do you take? My 3 children would go and my wife and I would have to stay behind. 9 - If you can change anything about your career, what would it be? Improve my skating enough to have played in the NHL. 10 - The one player during your career that you’ve said to yourself, “Damn, I can’t believe on the same pitch as that guy!” Who and when? Ryan Giggs Canada vs Wales in Wrexham 2004 (?) 11 - Teammate (club or national team) you’d call to have a good time? Wade Barrett. He would find the nearest Starbucks and we could sit and have a coffee or tea. You’d trust to leave your kids with? Martin Nash (Vancouver Whitecaps FC midfielder and captain) and his wife Emma–They are both great with kids and have a similar outlook in raising children. Plus their boys love hockey and maybe it could rub off on our children. Grateful he’s on your team? Craig Waibel. Only other player, besides me, that regularly gets confused as part of the “coaching staff” on the road.