Through the early history of Sounders FC, the club has found success when it can get an attacking threat from a wide midfield position.
Steve Zakuani and Alvaro Fernandez were both consistent scoring threats while Freddie Ljungberg and Mauro Rosales stood out with their set-up play. Through the first eight matches in 2014, Lamar Neagle has shown the capability of doing both, notching three goals and three assists to provide some width in an attack that is led by the tandem of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins.
"Last year he only got goals when he played up front, but now he is getting goals coming in wide. If you can get 8-12 goals from a wide guy, that's pretty good production," Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. "We like to have him with us on attack, because wide guys can be dangerous."
Neagle has been as dangerous as they come from a wide position in MLS this season, with his nine points leading all outside midfielders. Part of that is a credit to the gaps opened up by the defensive attention being paid to Dempsey and Martins, but Neagle has also shown progress, timing his runs better as he learns more and more how to play with Seattle's elite strike pair.
"Whenever you get on a little bit of a role you want to keep it going. Those guys make things easy. You can just give them the ball and make runs and stuff happens," said Neagle.
Each year, Neagle has tried to improve on the previous year. After a breakout season with the Charleston Battery in USL-2 in 2010, Neagle finished the 2011 season back in Seattle with five goals and two assists, including a hat trick. While he struggled with the Montreal Impact in 2012, he didn't let that slow his progress, amassing eight goals and four assists for Sounders FC last season.
With his fast start in 2014, he is poised to surpass those numbers as Seattle's offense continues to click with 12 goals in the last four matches.
"I feel like my whole career has been building up every year," Neagle said. "My touch is better. My passing is better. That final decision. Everything."
Neagle's goal on Saturday, his third of the season, came at a pivotal moment in the 4-1 win over the Rapids.
The two teams were destined to finish the first half without a goal on the scoreboard – as each of Colorado's previous six games had – when Seattle broke on the counterattack in first-half stoppage time. Martins led Dempsey up the right side, he eluded goalkeeper Clint Irwin then shot toward the far post. Defender Drew Moor got a piece of the ball to prevent Dempsey from scoring, but Neagle was there to tap in the loose ball for a 1-0 lead just before the halftime whistle.
Dempsey would add another just after the start of the second half and Seattle was cruising to a third consecutive victory.
"The timing of the goal was very important at the end of the half. We had already figured out what we were going to say at halftime and we felt that we had played really well. We didn't let many—if any—looks on goal and we were getting closer. We felt confident that if we keep playing the way we're playing and sharpen up we'll get more goals," Schmid said. "It was great getting it before halftime."
The simplicity of Neagle's last two goals – he netted a tap-in against Chivas USA last week, too – doesn't matter to the Federal Way native as much as the three straight victories for Sounders FC.
"Whenever you're getting goals, however you're getting them, it's nice," Neagle smiled. "Getting on the board, helping the team and when we can get multiple goals in a game, it's fun."