On Monday evening, Seattle Sounders FC announced that they had traded for former player Lamar Neagle, who returned to the club from D.C. United in exchange for a fourth round 2018 SuperDraft pick. Speaking to the media on Wednesday for the first time since returning to the club Neagle joked, “I was thinking I had the record at three, but now four, I think I definitely hold it.”
According to Sounders general manager Garth Lagerwey, the club had been discussing re-acquiring Neagle with D.C. United for around six months. But as Neagle noted, the actual trade happened quite swiftly. “I don’t remember the exact day, but I know D.C. was trying to make moves so they weren’t really sure, nothing was concrete until a couple days ago.” He said things were very fluid, and D.C.’s recent squad upheaval meant that deals were made and changed so frequently that he wasn’t really sure it was happening up until he signed the paperwork.
But when presented with the opportunity to come home, the Federal Way product knew it was the right choice. “It was an opportunity for me to come home for a little bit and get some training sessions in and figure things out.” Neagle said his wife and son were already in Seattle on vacation, so it made things even easier for him that he was able to meet up with them earlier than expected. “I knew my family was already here, I’m in a particularly different situation than last time, so this made sense for right now.”
Lagerwey stressed that bringing Neagle back was great for the Sounders both on and off the field, and his chemistry with the staff and many players means the transition will be much smoother than it is for most new players. “He’s a guy who knows what it’s like to be a Sounder. We know that he knows what’s expected by Coach Schmetzer and the coaching staff.” The Sounders GM also made it a point to say that he respects the D.C. United organization for the handling of Neagle and his situation, considering how little they took out of the deal. “Ultimately what happened, is they did Lamar a solid. That was a team that was maybe not having the year they hoped for, so they did it with Lamar and with Bobby Boswell, they gave them a chance to go to a contender to compete and try to win a title. I tip my cap to them, I hope we behave like that as well.”
Head coach Brian Schmetzer is also more than familiar with Neagle, as they’ve worked together even before the Sounders joined MLS. “I’ve known Lamar long enough, even back in the USL days when he’d come and train with us,” Schmetzer said. “I have a really, really solid relationship with him, and it was an easy conversation.” Neagle remembered this too, saying that he has a great relationship with Schmetzer thanks to his high school coach Darren Sawatzky, who introduced him to the Sounders and helped him get into training sessions with the club on his summers home from UNLV. “Obviously it’s a relationship that has changed. Knowing him for a long time, this is a great opportunity.”
This long-term relationship with both the club and the coach means that the Sounders know what they’re getting from a player like Neagle. “I’m already familiar with the organization and the coaches, it just made sense at this time for everybody,” he said. Schmetzer described Neagle as “a hard worker, smart worker, goal-dangerous, fast, he’s got good strength.” He particularly remembered Neagle’s goal in a win over Real Salt Lake in 2011 that broke their home unbeaten streak. “He scored a lot of big goals for us, he’s always goal dangerous, good in training, decent on the field, does a lot of stuff for us.” Schmetzer also noted that as of now, Neagle will compete for the two wide attacking midfield roles and the lone striker spot in the 4-2-3-1 the Sounders currently utilize.
Despite having played nearly three seasons for other MLS clubs, he has only played against the Sounders at CenturyLink Field once—earlier this season in the home side’s epic 4-3 comeback win. Neagle received a very nice reception from the fans, something he didn’t really expect. “I had never played at CenturyLink being on the opposite team before so I wasn’t sure what reception I was gonna get, but I was obviously pleasantly surprised with what happened.”
A few things around the Sounders organization have changed since Neagle was last with the club in 2015. The coaching staff, while all are familiar too him, looks rather different. Schmetzer is now the head coach, while assistant coaches Djimi Traore and Gonzalo Pineda were just Neagle’s teammates the last time around. “It is weird not seeing Sigi around, because the three times I did before he was the head man, but it’s fitting to have Schmetzer here. ... Schmetzer is Seattle soccer. So obviously it was a great fit and he came in and did a good job, better than anybody could have done.” There are also a number of players that were here during some or all of his previous stints, but there are plenty of newcomers that he needs to get to know. “There are still guys I played with, but there are a lot of guys I haven’t played with and need to get used to and get to know.”
While some fans may be scratching their heads at the Sounders’ latest move, the organization is clearly all on the same page with Neagle’s re-acquisition. While he may not have much of an obvious impact, both Schmetzer and Lagerwey seemed in agreement in the expectation that Neagle will have a very positive effect on the club in one way or another. “We respect Lamar, we think he’s a guy who can help us down the stretch,” said Lagerwey. Neagle is eager to work hard, but his expectations of playing time are reasonably tempered. “I think it works out for everybody that I can come in, and whether I make an impact on the field, I definitely will on the practice field.”