This was supposed to be the year Lamar Neagle finally came into his own. Over the previous two seasons, the Federal Way product had scored 17 goals and picked up 13 assists. That included a nine-goal, nine-assist output in 2014. Even better, most of that production had come from a wide position, a position the Seattle Sounders have long struggled to find stable production.
At 28 years old, it all seemed to be lining up nicely.
But Neagle got off to a slow start, going scoreless in his first five starts and failing to get a shot off in his first four. He seemed to break out with a two-goal performance against the Colorado Rapids, but then didn't score again until June 13.
Neagle's season never really got on track, and despite a career high 31 appearances, he was a virtual afterthought over the season's final month. Neagle's last start came on Oct. 4 and he didn't even make the bench for the Sounders' regular-season finale or their three playoff games.
Despite establishing himself as a proven goal scorer and still in his athletic prime, Neagle's career is very much in flux.
"I think it was a difficult year for Lamar, from a couple different scenarios," Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told Sounder at Heart. "One was his game changed a little bit at the beginning of the year. It was something he and I talked about and I think he understood what had changed, what he needed to get back to. Right around that time, all the injuries started to happen and that changed his role again. He ended playing more minutes during that phase than he probably should have played and then at the end of the day, it changed again because we had different people healthy in those positions.
"In my mind, he was a tough decision from week to week but felt it was a better decision for the team."
Schmid was not ready to close the book on a player he's already cut, re-signed, traded away and then brought back over seven seasons, though. Even with this year's struggles, Neagle still scored three important CONCACAF Champions League goals and has now scored 25 goals across all competitions over the past three seasons.
"Lamar is a great person and player and has accomplished an awful lot in this game," Schmid said. "He can continue to show that what happened at the end of this year isn't how it's going to be in the future. That's just a snippet in time. I think our conversation was good. He knows what I want and what I'm looking for and I think he understands it as well.
"The main thing i'm happy about is Lamar understands what he needs to do to play. He's a guy who's willing to do that."