Somewhere among all of his mementos from his first four years as a professional soccer player, Lamar Neagle has a photo that will always bring a smile to his face.
The picture depicts Neagle in a rain-drenched Rave Green Sounders FC jersey saluting hundreds of supporters that made the trip to Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, for Seattle’s 2011 road match with Real Salt Lake.
It was a history-ending match for the Sounders punctuated by a remarkable goal from the Federal Way native, who scored his first career MLS goal to lift the Sounders to a 2-1 win and end Salt Lake’s MLS record 29-match home unbeaten streak amidst a downpour.
“Kind of fitting for Seattle to go in and having it dumping on us when we have a great win like that to beat their streak,” Neagle smiled at the memory as the Sounders prepare for their first trip to Rio Tinto this weekend. “I was loving it. It’s a very good memory for me.”
Neagle was a bit of an unlikely hero in that match, coming on in the 18th minute to replace an injured Alvaro Fernandez. He was getting his most extensive playing time to date and made the most of his opportunity, and went on to start in nine of his 23 appearances and tallied five goals, including a hat trick against the Columbus Crew at CenturyLink Field.
That match at Rio Tinto Stadium was just one of the memorable matches between the two sides that have molded the matchup between Seattle and Salt Lake into a fiercely competitive rivalry. The all-time series, including playoff matches, is split at 4-4-5 with each team scoring 10 goals. Twice, they have met in the playoffs, with the Sounders prevailing in 2012 after falling in 2011.
That steady competition has fueled the rivalry to new heights.
“When two good teams go head-to-head, there’s a little bit of pride involved,” Neagle said. “With each game, you get to know each other and when you win you can hold your head a little bit higher.”
This week, the Sounders will look to make some more magic at Rio Tinto. After starting the season 0-2-1 in MLS play, Seattle is looking to get into the win column and expect to have several key ingredients back in the lineup as players return from injury and international duty on both sides.
That match in 2011 and last year’s 1-0 win in the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal series give the Sounders a bit of confidence as they go to one of the more difficult road venues in MLS.
“It would rekindle some of those memories if we can go back in there and get three points,” Neagle said. “We haven’t had the best start, so it would be huge to get three points against a good team away, especially at a place like Rio Tinto.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. PT with television coverage on KONG 6/16 and the radio broadcast on KIRO Radio 97.3 and the live blog on SoundersFC.com.