Only three teams in Major League Soccer had three or more players score eight or more goals.
Along with the trio in New York (Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry and Fabian Espindola) and the Timbers foursome (Diego Valeri, Will Johnson, Ryan Johnson and Darlington Nagbe) was Seattle's forward triumvirate of Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins and Lamar Neagle.
“Oba, Neagle, EJ … the three of them with 20 points each … I think there’s something to be said for that,” Sounders FC Sporting Director Chris Henderson said.
Johnson was Sounders FC’s leading scorer in 2012 and retained that crown in 2013, but it was a tight race that came down to the wire with Martins and Neagle.
With Johnson and Martins in and out of the lineup with injuries and international call-ups, it opened the door for Neagle and the 26-year-old Federal Way native stepped up, scoring eight goals in 27 starts.
Whereas Johnson scored Seattle’s first goal of the season and Martins had the first game-winning goal, Neagle was the first to score multiple goals in a match, netting a brace against the San Jose Earthquakes on May 11 in a 4-0 win at CenturyLink Field. He finished with a career-best eight goals and four assists and was a finalist for MLS Comeback Player of the Year.
Martins joined the team just before the second match of the season, arriving in Seattle on Friday evening to debut against the Timbers just 24 hours later. He finished the season third in the league with five game-winning goals and he had highlights aplenty, scoring eight goals and four assists in his 20 appearances.
As a tandem, Martins and Neagle developed a strong partnership that was particularly helpful in revitalizing Neagle after a year in Montreal that left him unsure of his role.
“He has a drive to succeed and he knows that when his chance comes, he’s going to seize the opportunity and he’s done that this year,” Henderson said of Neagle. “One of the things he’s picked up from Oba was the joy of the game. When Oba plays he has fun playing and you can see it when he scores. I think Lamar saw a little bit of that – you get back to why you want to play and it’s that joy of playing and competing.”
Johnson, meanwhile, remained Seattle’s scoring leader, with nine goals and two assists in 21 matches. The national team striker had some stellar stretches, too. In a four-match stretch in May, he had three goals and one assist. Not coincidentally, Sounders FC went 3-0-1 during that stretch. In another streak of four straight starts with a goal or an assist, Seattle went 4-0-0.
His 23 career MLS goals for Sounders FC ranks second in club history behind Fredy Montero.
David Estrada and Eriq Zavaleta played up top for Seattle at different points, with Sammy Ochoa also starting two matches before his contract expired over the summer. Zavaleta finished as the club’s leading scorer in the MLS Reserve League, tallying four goals in 12 matches and grew confidence at the end of the season that has him poised to build on for his second year in 2014.
Sounders FC has been extremely active at the forward position in the offseason, sending Johnson to DC United in a trade for allocation money this week, while also signing Kenny Cooper and acquiring the rights to Tristan Bowen, Chad Barrett and Corey Hertzog.