Last week, as league-leading Sounders FC finished off the Chicago Fire for a 3-2 victory to close out the first 15 matches of the season, Lamar Neagle scored his fifth goal of 2014 and whispered through a megaphone that he continues to make strides as a scoring threat.
With Seattle leading 2-1 in the 78th minute, Marco Pappa crossed a ball into the box where Kenny Cooper nodded it through to the far post for Neagle. It took a bounce, but came to the Federal Way native a bit higher than anticipated. With two defenders fast approaching, the 27-year-old showed poise to settle the ball, and with calm patience knocked it past goalkeeper Sean Johnson for the eventual game-winner, moving Neagle into third on Seattle's all-time scoring list.
"I think it's something I've been trying to do a little bit more is have more composure in the box. It was coming down and I wanted to hit it first-time, but it wasn't bouncing right, so I didn't want to rush it," Neagle said. "I was trying not to panic. It took a lot of time to come down the first time, then it bounced weird. I took it off my knee and tried to settle it as much as I could before I took the shot."
At other times in his career, Neagle may have rushed the shot, but playing with the likes of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins has given him a newfound confidence in front of net that has helped his game evolve.
Playing mostly as a forward, Neagle scored a career-high eight goals to go with four assists in 2013. Playing in a position closer to the net, scoring chances were aplenty.
Now back on the wing, his opportunities have come as a result of well-timed runs, cunning positioning and that newly developed composure.
With 18 career goals for Seattle, he now trails only Fredy Montero (47 goals) and Eddie Johnson (23 goals) on Sounders FC's all-time scoring list, moving ahead of Brad Evans and Steve Zakuani.
He celebrated the achievement like the savvy goalscorer he has become, running to the corner where his teammates were warming up in front of the Sounders FC away supporter's section at Toyota Park. There, goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann dropped to a knee and shined Neagle's right boot.
"I was just going to jump up and then I saw him down and I couldn't leave him hanging. I don't think I've ever done the shoe shine before in my life," Neagle laughed. "Marcus got his shoes shined earlier in Chicago, so he wanted to be the shoe-shine guy this time."
Neagle and the Sounders return from their World Cup break for training on Saturday ahead of a fourth-round match in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday against PSA Elite. The sold-out match will be available to watch on SoundersFC.com.