Lamar Neagle has looked across the soccer pitch and seen Decatur Gators, and he’s seen New Mexico Lobos.
On Saturday, he looked straight ahead and saw Chelsea, the famed Blues of the English Premier League. And he saw 65,289 fans at Qwest Field.
Quite a professional debut for the Sounders FC rookie.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Neagle said. “I grew up watching these guys play for Chelsea. You never think you’re going to get a chance to play against them. It was a great experience. Pretty intimidating, but it was fun.”
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Sounders coach Sigi Schmid stayed true to his word by playing every healthy player on his roster Saturday. Part of that was to rest his regulars for meaningful games ahead. Part of it was to let everyone take the pitch against one of the world’s superclubs.
That led to Sounders debuts for goalkeeper Terry Boss, forward Michael Fucito, and Neagle, who played at Federal Way’s Thomas Jefferson High and then UNLV.
“It was his first time ever out there on the field and he’s coming out with 65,000 fans when the most he played in front of at UNLV was 65 – there’s a lot more zeros after that,” Schmid said. “As I said to him, ‘Are you nervous?’ He didn’t want to say yes, so he said, ‘A little.’ And I said, ‘Well you should have been nervous.’ He goes, ‘I was, I was.’ It’s normal. But it’s a good experience.”
Neagle said he tried to ignore the crowd by concentrating on the considerable challenge at hand.
“I mean, there was (Andriy) Shevchenko right there and everything,” he said. “I glanced up occasionally, but I was trying to concentrate pretty hard on what I was trying to do, being a new position and everything. But it’s still amazing when you look around. It’s crazy.”
Blues draw rave reviews
Fucito made his pro debut Saturday after playing Ivy League soccer at Harvard. He was equally impressed.
“That was probably the single coolest experience of my life so far,” he said. “I watch Champions League. I watch English Premier League. And just to be on the same field as those guys, it’s hard to describe how cool that was.”
Sounders rookie Steve Zakuani grew up in London and was part of the Arsenal youth system. But this was his first time on the pitch facing and EPL senior club.
“Their defenders … their recovery was ridiculous,” Zakuani said. “Their speed and that kind of thing; their movement, their touch. There are no mistakes in the back. That’s the biggest difference. They’re all very good at what they do, and that’s just the next level.”
Montero transfer rumors
The English press asked Schmid about rumors that Sounders forward Fredy Montero has caught the attention of Fulham of the EPL.
“You read things in the paper and you’re not quite sure how (the reports) get there,” Schmid said. “Fredy Montero is with us right now. There have been no official inquiries that we are aware of at this stage.
“He’s a very important player to our team. He’s the second-leading scorer in our league, and he has a bright future.”
The Sounders return to action at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Starfire Sport Stadium, meeting the Houston Dynamo in a U.S. Open Cup semifinal. That game is sold out. ... Seattle returns to league play Saturday, when Chicago visits Qwest Field. That game also is sold out. ... Tacoma glass artist Dale Chihuly was awarded this match’s Golden Scarf. Chihuly designed a glass artwork to be given to visiting international sides Chelsea and FC Barcelona, which vists Aug. 5. ... The Sounders wore their all-green road uniforms at home for the first time.