When the Sounders FC re-acquired Lamar Neagle in the offseason, he joined a long line of talented wide midfield players on the Sounders roster. Just how Neagle would see playing time on a club with such depth at the position that he had grown into in the previous two years in MLS was a tall task.
However, Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid touted Neagle’s versatility as a trait that attracted the Sounders towards bringing the Federal Way native back into the mix for his third stint with the club.
Already in the first two months of the season, he has rewarded Schmid for that faith while playing primarily as a forward as the Sounders have dealt with injuries throughout the year up top. That shined brightly on Saturday in the Sounders FC’s 1-0 win over the Colorado Rapids, as Neagle finished the match with two dangerous shots, skimming off the crossbar with one in the first half and forcing Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin into a sprawling save in the second half. He also had the cross that eventually set up the game-winning goal.
“He’s been great,” Schmid said. “Once he gets his full game fitness maybe those balls he got in the second half, he can turn those into goals as well. I thought his running was pretty good as the game wore on. He did a much better job of holding the ball up for us as well. Lamar has done well for us the last few games.”
Neagle started his current run of form with a substitute appearance in Seattle’s 1-1 draw with Santos Laguna in the second leg of their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series, scoring Seattle’s only goal of the series while playing up top with Steve Zakuani.
He repeated that role in the next match against the New England Revolution, starting alongside Zakuani while the Sounders played to a scoreless draw. Although the zero in the score column wasn’t what the Sounders were looking for, Neagle’s play left encouraging signs for Schmid and on Saturday he started with Obafemi Martins.
Paired with the superstar goal-scorer was a different proposition for Neagle than playing with a winger like Zakuani or even with Eddie Johnson, as he had in training the previous week.
“I was trying to get it to his feet as much as possible, and let him create and let him do what he does. The more he sees the ball, the more successful we’re going to be,” Neagle said. “I was just trying to win headers and stretch the defense so he could get space.”
That understanding of his role was key in his success in the partnership and has helped him develop as a forward, the position he played in 2010 when he earned USL-2 MVP honors while leading the Charleston Battery to a championship season.
“I think my movement off the ball is getting better. My runs are getting better,” he said. “Martins found me on the one where I hit the crossbar in the first half. I thought that was good movement and a good ball by him.”
Neagle and the Sounders return to action on May 4 against the Philadelphia Union in a road match at PPL Park that starts a two-match road trip, concluding with a May 8 tilt with Sporting Kansas City.