Against Columbus, Neagle forced into unfamiliar role

Against Columbus, Neagle forced into unfamiliar role

The talented left-sided player dropped back into defense for the Sounders on Saturday at Crew Stadium.

The last time Lamar Neagle played outside back for Sounders FC, he was facing off with a team that included John Obi Mikel, Claudio Pizzarro, Andriy Shevchenko and Frank Lampard in a 2009 friendly against Chelsea. Playing the final 19 minutes of the match, Neagle was fighting to learn a new position as he sought playing time at the start of his professional career.

Since then, he has established himself as a quality attacking threat as a forward or midfielder, but on Saturday he was called on to flex his defensive muscles when Leo Gonzalez was sent off in the opening minutes against the Columbus Crew and Neagle shifted to left back.

“Throughout my career, I’ve played a few different positions, so I have somewhat of an idea of what I need to do on the team,” Neagle said. “Keeping my ears open and my eyes open is how I do it.”

Knowing he had some experience in the role, however limited it might have been, Head Coach Sigi Schmid had confidence that Neagle would respond to the challenge. With the red card coming so early in the match, Schmid also didn’t want to make any drastic lineup changes knowing that they still had a long match ahead of them in humid conditions in Columbus.

“I didn’t want to change anything right away, I wanted to see how it looked,” Schmid said. “I thought Lamar just adjusted really well and did a good job and even found some energy to get forward at times. We saw a different side of Lamar Neagle tonight, but what he contributed to our win was fantastic.”

The move didn’t go unnoticed by Columbus, who deployed the speedy Dominic Oduro up the right side throughout the first half. The veteran had his share of opportunities, but Neagle’s speed was able to limit some of those chances and in the second half Oduro moved to the middle as a forward.

A consummate professional, Neagle made the same type of adjustments he has needed to make throughout his career to find a way to get the job done.

After failing to see any time as an undrafted rookie in 2009, Neagle played the 2010 season with the Charleston Battery in the USL-2, winning the championship while posting an MVP season. After a brief stint in Finland, he returned to Sounders FC in 2011, where he held an attacking role and finished the season with five goals and two assists, including a hat trick against the Crew. Neagle played one more season away from Seattle after a preseason trade to the Montreal Impact, but returned prior to this season and picked up where he left off in 2011, already tallying five goals and three assists through 24 matches.

A player who has paid his dues to get to where he is in his career, Neagle has shown that he is always willing to do what’s needed to help his team succeed. However, he was quick to credit his teammates – particularly center backs Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Zach Scott.

“It’s a little bit more difficult. I had to get a lot of help from Zach and from those other guys and luckily they did a good job of letting me know and keeping me in the right positions,” Neagle said. “I still got caught a few times, but that’s kind of expected. It was a great all-around effort for the guys to help me out.”

With Eddie Johnson and Clint Dempsey away on international duty, Neagle is now a prime candidate to return to his more familiar role as a forward when Sounders FC faces Chivas USA on Wednesday and the Chicago Fire on Saturday, both at CenturyLink Field.

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