When the 2013 MLS home openers were announced in December, Lamar Neagle circled March 2 as his first opportunity to return home since the Sounders FC traded the Federal Way native to the Montreal Impact during the preseason last year.
Neagle may be on the field at CenturyLink Field that night, but it won’t be with the Impact.
The Sounders FC instead brought Neagle back for his third stint with the club in the team’s five-year history in a trade on Monday, sending an international roster slot to Montreal for the 25-year-old midfielder.
“It’s amazing. It’s going to be nice to be able to see my family and be around my little sister and everything like that,” Neagle said. “I know the fans are going to enjoy it. They had so much support for me when I left originally … It’s going to be good to hear from them again. I know my family is going to be ecstatic. I can’t imagine what my mom and my grandma are going to say when they find out. And the teammates. I know a lot of guys have changed. In the offseason I came back and I connected with a few of the guys so it’ll be a good homecoming.”
Neagle has jumped around quite a bit since his days at Thomas Jefferson High School in Federal Way.
After finishing school at UNLV he signed with his hometown club as an undrafted free agent in June of 2009, but he didn’t stick with the team in training camp the following year and instead played with the Charleston Battery in the USL second division. There, he earned MVP honors with 12 goals in 19 matches, leading the Battery to the USL-2 title.
He went from there to Finland, where he played five matches with Mariehamn, netting two goals before a return invite to join the Sounders in training camp brought him back to Seattle.
In his second stint, he enjoyed a breakout season.
Now full of confidence from his successful season in the lower division, Neagle played his way onto the field for the Sounders FC as a sub in the first two matches of the 2011 season, then into a starting role in four of five matches the club played in June. On August 27, he scored just the second hat trick in club history with three goals against the Columbus Crew. He finished the season with five goals and two assists in 23 matches, then also added a goal in the playoffs.
He opened camp again with the Sounders in 2012, but was traded along with Mike Fucito to the Impact for Eddie Johnson, who would go on to lead the team with a club-record 14 goals in 2012.
In Montreal, Neagle again started the season on the bench, but worked his way into the starting 11 for 11 of the 23 matches he played in, but couldn’t replicate his scoring total from 2011, finishing with two goals and two assists.
Now, he returns again to the Sounders, adding to the midfield depth.
“The past few years have been crazy. It gets tiring after a while traveling so much and moving and switching teams. I’ve only been a pro for four years and I think this is like the sixth time I’ve been on a new team,” he said. “It’s pretty crazy but hopefully I can settle down in one city and there’s no better city for me to do it than Seattle.”
In each season, Neagle feels like he has grown on the field through the ever-changing roles and systems he plays in and leagues he calls home.
He has also progressed into something of a leadership role, as young players in Montreal looked to him for guidance on and off the field.
“I know what it was like coming into the league not knowing what was going on, especially for me moving around a lot and being away from home every now and then. So I think a little leadership is what I’m bringing, as well,” said Neagle, who noted his on-field improvement. “I know it’s been a couple years but I think instead of running around so much like I usually did I’m a lot smarter player. I can bring that, as well. And learn from the guys. Seattle has some great outside mids that I can definitely learn from.”
Neagle hopes to join the team on Tuesday in Casa Grande, Arizona. The team will spend a week there, culminating in the first preseason game against the Portland Timbers on February 5 in Tucson, Arizona.