Just how much can change in a year?
Lamar Neagle may know better than anyone.
Last year on Thanksgiving, he sat in an apartment with two of his American teammates with Mariehamn in Finland, having a small meal – barely anything that resembled a Thanksgiving feast.
This year, he paraded to four houses in Federal Way, visiting grandmothers on both sides of his family, his younger sister and his father.
“It was quite different,” he smiled, recalling the good time with his family and the contrast between the two holidays. “A lot has changed in a year. It’s been pretty crazy.”
Equally contrasting are his feelings about the upcoming season.
In each of the past two years, he went into the holiday season without any concept of what the next year would bring. In 2009, he just finished playing half of a season as an outside back with the Sounders FC and didn’t have any indication that he’d get anything more than a tryout with the team the next season. In 2010, he was coming off an MVP and championship season with the Charleston Battery and was entering a winter break with Mariehamn. He would get another tryout in Seattle, and had boosted levels of confidence because of his strong performance in Charleston, but he again had no assurances of a roster spot and risked losing opportunities at the USL level if his tryout with Seattle lasted too long.
After a season that saw him tally five goals and five assists in MLS play – including the clubs second ever hat-trick – Neagle is not merely confident that he will keep a spot with the team. He’s now confident that he can be a key contributor to a team that hopes to vie for the MLS Cup in 2012, a faith that was bolstered when the Sounders protected Neagle in the recent expansion draft.
“I’m definitely confident in my ability to play in this league,” he smiled again. “It’s a nice place to be.”
It can’t be overstated how proud Neagle is to be achieving these things in his hometown, where he is now a celebrated role model. A 2005 graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School, Neagle met with the mayor of Federal Way, Skip Priest – himself a Thomas Jefferson alum – to discuss plans for a marketing campaign surrounding the city.
It doesn’t end there though. This off-season, Neagle has done work with America SCORES, where he spoke to the program’s students at their recent poetry slam, the Sounders FC Junior Alliance and was featured at an assembly at Federal Way’s Lake Grove Elementary School. In addition, he is working with the Jimi Hendrix Foundation and hopes to piggyback with them when he starts his own Neagle Foundation in the not-too-distant future.
Even with all the adoration, Neagle still remains humble. He relishes the opportunity to sign autographs or chat up a young fan.
“It’s crazy to think where soccer has taken me. I remember when I was a Sounders ball boy and getting all the players autographs on my shirt,” he said. “I always think about that when I’m doing an appearance and how one interaction can change a lot.”