It didn’t take long for Lamar Neagle to make his mark on the Sounders FC’s match with the Portland Timbers on Sunday.
He entered the match in the 66th minute and in the 69th minute, he outran Portland right back Steve Purdy to chase down a long ball from Patrick Ianni in the back to earn a corner kick. It was a simple play, but a sign of things to come as Neagle would wind up tormenting the Portland defense through the remainder of the match with his speed up the left side.
“It was hot out there and I knew the right back was going to be tired. After the first ball got played over the top and I beat him to it I knew there was no way he was going to stay with me,” Neagle said. “A lot of the confidence is the first couple touches in the match, especially coming on as a sub. On that one I ended up getting the ball, playing it and keeping it. I knew I was going to have a good half.”
Neagle came on as a change of pace for the more deliberate approach by Alvaro Fernandez and paid dramatic dividends. He beat Purdy to a ball on the left side in the 74th minute, then crossed it to Mauro Rosales, who set up Fredy Montero for his second goal of the night to equalize at 2-2. Then in the 81st minute, he sprinted past Eric Brunner to get to a lobbed ball from Osvaldo Alonso, forcing Brunner into a foul in the box that resulted in Alonso scoring the game-winning penalty. Brunner was also sent off on the play, leaving the Sounders with the man-advantage for the final ten minutes of the match.
“He’s a little bit different than some of our players. Fernandez plays with more touches and is a little more complicated as a player sometimes,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “Lamar is a lot more simple as a player. He has that simplicity and sometimes when he replaces a guy like Flaco, for the defender it presents a whole different challenge.”
This season has been one of many great achievements for Neagle after an MVP season with the Charleston Battery last year.
He appeared in five matches off the bench, and then replaced an injured Fernandez in a grudge match with Real Salt Lake on May 28. He wound up scoring the game-winning goal on an incredible strike that was voted MLS Goal of the Week. Schmid rewarded him by starting him in four of the next five matches, but he has since returned to the bench in the last two matches.
In between, he built confidence by helping the Sounders to a 7-0-0 record in the MLS Reserve League.
In just four matches, Neagle has three goals and two assists, getting a goal and an assist last week against the LA Galaxy in the Reserve League.
One of the adjustments Neagle has found himself making is in coming off the bench, as opposed to starting like he did for Charleston and Mariehamn in Finland last year.
“It’s tough. Coming in as a sub is hard. I’ve talked to some of the other guys about it. I don’t know what it is, but after the first five or ten minutes, you’re dead tired. I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline or the different warm-up,” he said. “You want to get into the flow of things and get your first couple of touches down and keep the ball. But you also have to be effective in those few minutes that you get in order to get more time.”
More time is in the offing in the coming weeks, as the Sounders play Wednesday in the US Open Cup, July 20 in a friendly against Manchester United and July 26 in the CONCACAF Champions League against San Francisco of Panama.
Mix in an MLS match with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday and there is no question that Neagle will have more opportunities to contribute.