Pat Noonan's brief, unmemorable stint in Columbus is over.

Pat Noonan's brief, unmemorable stint in Columbus is over.

Ten months ago, the Crew acquired Noonan from the New England Revolution in exchange for a first-round draft pick and allocation money. The Crew brass hoped the two-time All-Star and former scoring champion would contribute significantly to a Columbus playoff run.

The Crew made a run all right, winning its first MLS Cup, but Noonan didn't appear in the playoffs and was used mainly as a backup for Guillermo Barros Schelotto in his minimal regular-season appearances, tallying only one goal and two assists in 11 matches.

This season the story hasn't changed. Schelotto is shining brighter than ever with a league-leading 10 goals, and Noonan's hefty (by MLS standards) $175,000 salary has been weighing down the bench.

A player of his caliber deserved more playing time, but he was stuck behind the league MVP on the depth chart.

The Crew's solution to the Noonan conundrum was to send him packing. Columbus dealt Noonan to the Colorado Rapids on Monday for a first-round pick in the 2010 SuperDraft and allocation money - essentially the same price they paid to get him last August.

The deal works out for both parties. Noonan will undoubtedly see more of the pitch in Denver, where the Rapids are contending for the Western Conference crown. The swift, short Noonan should be a good fit alongside bulldozer striker Conor Casey.

Columbus, meanwhile, can give more playing time to young forwards Steven Lenhart and Jason Garey. And by dumping Noonan's salary, the club has freed up significant money to acquire a game-changing striker to challenge those guys and Alejandro Moreno for a starting spot.

But it's bittersweet to wave goodbye. Noonan was just starting to get some minutes, and with the U.S. Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League approaching, the Crew certainly could have used him to start for Schelotto more often, as he did May 30 in Seattle.

Now who's going to play if Schelotto gets tired or, God forbid, hurt?

Also, it's somewhat disconcerting that the Crew doesn't seem to have any specific player in mind to take Noonan's roster spot. Technical Director Brian Bliss told the Dispatch that the trade merely sets a player search in motion; it would be comforting for Crew fans to think management had an ace in the hole lined up and ready to go.

Nevertheless, Columbus is flying high right now with a nine-match unbeaten streak. Three wins in the past four matches have left the Crew just three points behind first-place D.C. United and two behind Chicago. Last season's Massive mojo is beginning to emerge again.

It's a pity Noonan couldn't be a part of the party.

E-mail Chris DeVille at cdeville@columbusalive.com