Lamar Neagle finds himself in a somewhat unfamiliar situation. Barring an unforeseen change, Neagle will be starting a season with the same team he finished with for the first time since beginning his professional career in 2009.
The Federal Way native clearly appreciates the opportunity to be doing it with his hometown team, especially after receiving a contract extension over the offseason.
"It means a lot," Neagle told Sounder at Heart. "That just shows that [the Sounders] appreciate the hard work I put in and that I was doing the right work that they wanted. It's very cool being one of the older guys on the team and to see the young kids from here, like Ugo [Sean Okoli] and [Aaron] Kovar. I take on a little bit more of a leadership role, which is cool.
"Every year I'm grateful to be playing in Seattle. I just love the atmosphere that our fans bring and our city brings for sports in general. It's cool to be one of the guys from here and take on more of a leadership role, to be one of those guys."
While Neagle may be returning to a team for the first time, he comes into a situation that's a little different than in years past. During his first couple stints with the Sounders -- and even after rejoining the team just before the start of the 2013 season -- Neagle was seen purely as depth. There were very few expectations, at least when it came to those outside of the team.
But after scoring a career-high eight goals and showing that he can be productive when given extended minutes, the Sounders will actually be relying on a certain level of production from the 26-year-old.
Just like in previous years, though, Neagle will likely be required to play multiple positions. A year ago, he saw the bulk of his time at forward, scoring all of his goals and getting all four of his assists in 19 starts at the position. Neagle did not register a goal or an assist in eight starts at left mid. The Sounders don't seem particularly concerned with those discrepancies, though.
"It's an important year," Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. "Being able to show he can [score goals] in back-to-back seasons is important. For us, he's a player we know can play up front but we also know he can play on the left. Even though he didn't get any goals playing in that position last year, he got goals in that position [in 2011]. I know he's capable of scoring no matter where we play him."