Lamar Neagle has reached a transitional stage in his soccer career.
He seems to have achieved the basic goal of showing that he belongs in Major League Soccer. And that frees him to start thinking about becoming a starter – perhaps even a star.
From the experience of Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid, that can be a dangerous point in the development of a young player.
“There’s certain players that success goes to their head and they relax a little bit and they forget what got them there, and then it all goes away in a short period of time,” Schmid said. “And then there are other players who find a way to keep on working and keep on going.”
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Schmid said he thinks Neagle will be one of the success stories.
Neagle’s career with the Sounders began quietly in 2009, when he was unable to earn any MLS playing time and was waved after the season.
He spent 2010 with Charleston of the USL-2 – two levels below MLS.
But any questions about whether the Federal Way native can play at the country’s highest level of professional soccer seem to be dissolving this season.
He has appeared in 15 of Seattle’s 25 league games. That includes four starts, although lately Schmid has used Neagle off the bench as an offensive threat for the final 20 minutes or so.
Neagle is making the most of the role, providing late game-winners twice. The first came May 28 at Real Salt Lake when his goal in the 84th minute gave Seattle a 2-1 victory. The other came Aug. 6 at Kansas City, again a 2-1 win, but this one in stoppage time.
“Seems like I’ve got a knack for it,” Neagle said after that game. “(Sporting K.C. was) down a man, and once I came on I was getting good in the attack and kind of going at them a little bit on the right and then switched to the left so I could cut in with my right. Mauro (Rosales) did a good job getting by his man, played it to (Mike) Fucito, he got a touch on it to me, and I just hit it back across the goal.”
Neagle almost converted a similar play Saturday in Seattle’s scoreless draw with Chivas USA. In the 89th minute, he made a move in the penalty area and seemed to have drawn a penalty kick. However, the referee signaled to play on.
More opportunities could be available this week when the Sounders play a CONCACAF Champions League match against Comunicaciones of Guatemala on Tuesday at CenturyLink Field and then return to MLS play Saturday at FC Dallas.
As Neagle’s chances have increased, so has his confidence that he belongs in MLS.
“I know that if I was playing for another team I’d probably be starting,” he said. “But our team has depth, and it’s probably necessary with all the games that we have. I’m not worried about it. I’m going to be getting games, and it’s just going to make me better.”
O’Brian White has suffered a setback in his recovery from a leg injury that had sidelined him since April, Schmid revealed over the weekend. … However, Schmid said that defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and midfielder Brad Evans could play Tuesday.