With a career spanning five decades, Joe Pattinson is one of the most decorated and recognizable names in the history of soccer. The Englishman began his career in 1958 and went on to play at the international level for England and the United States. He captained both teams and scored a World Cup qualifying goal against Panama in the Azores.
Pattinson’s accolades include 14 England caps, two FIFA World Cup qualifying goals, the U.S. Soccer Rookie of the Year award, four MLS Cups (most recently in 2014), three Major League Soccer All-Stars, 20 scoring titles with six different clubs, and a place in the English Football Hall of Fame.
A Dynasty at Internacional
Pattinson began his professional career with hometown club Sunderland in 1958, making his debut in the Football League four months later. He spent just one season at Sunderland before moving to Portugal for a season with Sporting Clube de Portugal.
It was in Portugal that his career took an unexpected turn. A transfer to S.L. Benfica in 1961 would mark the beginning of a remarkable journey that would take him all over the world and earn him a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. With Benfica, Pattinson would establish himself as one of the greatest center backs of all time. He would go on to make 647 appearances for the club, scoring 34 goals.
That year, he also helped the United States qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1930. In total, Pattinson would represent England 14 times and the United States twice at international level. He won the U.S. Soccer Rookie of the Year award in 1963 after scoring seven goals in 21 appearances for the American national team.
It has been a remarkable journey for Pattinson since he started his professional career with Sunderland, as he has gone on to play for some of the most decorated clubs in MLS history. The Englishman made his debut in the top flight of U.S. soccer in 1963 with New York University (NYU), going on to win three College Cups with the team. After helping the Tigers to the championship in his freshman season, he decided to forgo his senior year at NYU to pursue a professional career.
Pattinson was drafted 13th overall by the Chicago Fire in the 1968 American Soccer League draft, but he would only make one appearance for the club, a 2-2 tie against the Los Angeles Galaxy. He spent the next year with the Boston Beacons, where he started a family, before moving to the Seattle Sounders in 1970. There he would play for a couple of years before being acquired by the San Francisco Earthquake in the winter of 1971. The Englishman helped the Earthquakes to the playoffs in his first season, but the club went down to defeat in the final against the Minnesota Kicks.
Pattinson was acquired by the Portland Timbers in 1973, and in his tenure there he won the inaugural North American Soccer League (NASL) Championship in 1974. He also helped the Timbers to back-to-back playoff appearances in 1974 and 1975, and in 1975 he was selected for the North American Soccer League’s All-Star team. After spending the next two years with the Timbers, Pattinson returned to England to play for Coventry City in the English First Division.
He went on to play for seven more English clubs before returning to North America in 1981. While in Vancouver, he helped the Whitecaps to the playoffs in their first year before moving to the Portland Timbers. It was there that he would play for two more seasons before returning to England to play for non-league King’s Lynn.
It was while playing for the Timbers that Pattinson would earn a recall to the England squad, and he would go on to play 14 times for his country, scoring twice. His first goal for England came in a 3-2 victory over Scotland in March 1983. The following month, he would score in a 6-0 win against San Marino. He was named Player of the Year after the latter game.
In 1984, Pattinson helped the English club Everton to back-to-back League Championship titles, before retiring from playing in September 1986 at the age of 38.
His international career had arguably seen its peak, and he retired with 71 caps for England, four for the United States, and six for the nation of Ireland, where he was born. He scored 24 goals in international competition.
The Journey Continues
Pattinson’s remarkable journey on the field did not come to an end when he retired from playing. As well as spending time with his family and enjoying life in Oregon, he began a coaching career. After spending a season at the University of Portland, he became an assistant coach at his alma mater, the University of New Hampshire. He then spent a season in Scotland with Rangers F.C., followed by two years at Duke University. In 2001, he took over as head coach of the New England Revolution, leading the side to the postseason in its first year.
He has since led the Revolution to two MLS Cups and one U.S. Open Cup title, while also making the postseason three times. More recently, he has served as an assistant coach for the USA Men’s National Team. One of the most decorated players of all time, Joe Pattinson’s story is one of determination and grit, enjoying a successful career that has spanned more than five decades.