It's been a great year for several Sounders. Obafemi Martins is on the short list to win the MVP. Clint Dempsey is on the long list for the same award. Chad Marshall could win the Defender of the Year. Osvaldo Alonso is probably going to be in the league wide Best XI. A case could be made by Marco Pappa as the Comeback Player of the Year (for EJ reasons). Lamar Neagle's year is not going to win league awards.
But it is still a great year.
Neagle ended the regular season just shy of a double-double. His nine goals and nine assists (seven of those primaries) in MLS play are damn good. Lamar added an assist in Open Cup play too. He completes 74% of his passes and once a game he gets a key pass. It's a great season for Lamar Neagle.
I didn't think he was capable of it. I was wrong.
Like many I thought he was a better forward than a midfielder, which may be true. But he's turned into a really good winger, essentially playing as a high midfielder that pulls back into defense regularly while in the attack he's high up the pitch. This role, which is new to him, is similar to what Zakuani played when he was here, except with more defense, particularly in the air.
"I'm mostly playing outside mid this year rather than switching up between forward and outside mid," he told Sounder at Heart and other media last week. It's helped him. He's comfortable in the role. He's learning it. His second year playing with Oba and Clint up top is special.
"I think it just comes through time," Neagle continued. "Obviously Oba and Clint have a special kind of connection up there. Sometimes you get caught watching them, just in awe. I think over time you know how they play, the runs that they like to make, when they want the ball, where they are better with the ball so you start to play to everybody's strengths."
I never thought that Lamar could do this. I was wrong.
He's not just a hard worker who loves his city, his area code and the kids that he helps through his foundation. There's more to it. He has a connection to Clint and Oba that's working. Now, goals come in from Lamar that aren't just poached, but things of beauty from distance are part of the package.
There are better pure wingers on the team (maybe only one). There are better pure scorers on the team (maybe, just maybe Cooper and Barrett). There are better wide defenders (Azira, Rose).
There is only one Lamar Neagle. This is his best year yet, and I'm never doubting anything about his ability to play soccer again.