When the Sounders traded with the Montreal Impact for Lamar Neagle during the preseason, it wasn’t simply to bring the Federal Way native back home for his third stint with the club, but it was because of the things he can bring to the team on the field.
After struggling through some preseason bumps and bruises that were never enough to keep him out of training but always just enough to have an effect on his play, Neagle is feeling healthy now and showed on Tuesday night just why the Sounders were so keen to get him back in a Seattle uniform.
The athletic 25-year-old from Thomas Jefferson High School subbed into Tuesday's match in the 61st minute and provided a dynamic energy at the forward position needed to put pressure on the Santos defense and in the 73rd minute the move paid off.
DeAndre Yedlin – another local product from O’Dea High School – sprung Neagle forward with a ball over the top into the right corner. Neagle beat his defender, Panama National Teamer Felipe Baloy, and threaded a ball to Steve Zakuani coming down the middle of the box. Zakuani’s effort was stopped by goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez, but Neagle chased down the rebound and thundered a left-footed shot into the open net for the goal.
“Going in I knew their defenders were going to be a little tired with the heat and they’ve had a few games in the past week,” Neagle said. “My job was just to work and I had a good ball over the top. I saw Steve on the other side, and I got the fortunate bounce off the goalie.”
Bringing Neagle into the match, along with Mauro Rosales who subbed on in the 59th minute, was designed to boost the attacking energy, as the Sounders needed two second-half goals to advance to the tournament final. They were only able to manage one, but the substitutions did what they intended to do by creating more chances to score.
“I thought Mauro came in and gave us some energy. I thought Lamar came in and gave us energy up front. We wanted to go with a little more speed up front. That’s why we came with them first,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “A lot of our substitutions worked out well that way.”
Going with Neagle may have been a bit against convention. Until Sammy Ochoa came on as the last sub, the Sounders were using two midfielders in Neagle and Zakuani in the forward roles. In addition, Neagle hadn’t seen much time in the first month of the season, garnering just nine minutes of MLS action in one substitute appearance and 22 minutes in the first leg of the quarterfinal series against Tigres.
However, improved play on the training ground in between those games thrust him into the rotation and he rewarded Schmid for that faith.
“He’d been training a little bit better. He didn’t have a good reserve game the last time he played, but he’d been training better,” Schmid said. “We just felt that his speed would be something that could help us and his energy was something that we felt we needed at that point.”
Now back in MLS action, Neagle will look to add to his seven career MLS goals – five of which came in 2011 in his first full season with the Sounders. Seattle hosts the New England Revolution on Saturday at 1 pm PT at CenturyLink Field.