MONTREAL – Once a local guy making good, Lamar Neagle suddenly finds himself about as far from his hometown of Federal Way as he can be in Major League Soccer.
Neagle seemed to be establishing his pro career in Seattle last season, and the Sounders seemed to confirm that by protecting him in the expansion draft.
Everything changed Feb. 17, when he was shipped to Montreal as part of the trade for veteran forward Eddie Johnson.
“It was out of nowhere,” Neagle said Friday, wearing his blue training jersey with the Impact’s fleur-de-lis crest. “After being protected, I thought I was good. And going into preseason, I was doing well. It was just one of those things. That’s part of the business. Unfortunately, I have to leave my family; but it’s kind of better opportunities for everybody.”
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Even as he accepts that, Neagle also admits he has dreamed about scoring the winning goal tonight, when the Sounders visit Montreal.
“If you’re playing against your old teammates and stuff like that, you want to get the better,” Neagle said. “Especially for us now: We’ve gone through some tough times and had some tough decisions. So we definitely want to come out and start after this (three-week) break (from MLS play) with a good game and a good win.”
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said he understands that attitude. And he notes that Neagle won’t be the only one feeling it tonight, as the Impact roster also includes former Sounders Tyson Wahl, Sanna Nyassi and Miguel Montano.
“I think it’s a motivating thing,” Schmid said. “Brad (Evans) and Tyson were roommates on quite a few trips in their years together in Seattle, so I’m sure Brad doesn’t want to hear from Tyson, and I’m sure Tyson doesn’t want to hear from Brad. It makes it a little more at stake.”
There is no certainty Neagle will get much of a chance to compete against his former club. Despite seeming on the verge of stardom at times last season, he hasn’t yet established himself in Montreal. Through 13 games, Neagle has five starts and 11 appearances; he is tied for the team lead with two assists but hasn’t scored a goal.
“Toward the beginning I had a couple of injuries that were kind of keeping me out,” Neagle said. “Then I started to get back into it and I kind of wasn’t playing how I usually did. It’s just one of those things that people go through. ... I like to think I’m out of it now: I’ve been playing really well the last couple of weeks. But it’s still tough with Justin Mapp and Davy Arnoud playing the outside. Those are guys that have so much experience. Mapp’s like 27 and has been in the league 10 years. What can you do? I’m still learning from these guys. Hopefully, in the second part of the season I’ll be getting more minutes.”
Schmid said the Sounders were prepared for the possibility that Neagle, 25, could blossom into a star for the Impact. But they felt Johnson was worth that risk.
“We felt that was something that made sense to do because of what we were going to gain at the other end,” Schmid said. “... (Johnson) had the speed to stretch a defense; he had the ability to hold up play; he’s decent in the air, which he’s shown over the months that’s he’s been with us as well. Those were the qualities we were looking for.”
Schmid said David Estrada’s foot surgery this week went well enough that the club is hopeful he will return at the short end of the estimated eight-to-12-week recovery schedule. ... Sounders FC announced Friday that defender Andrew Duran has been loaned to NASL Atlanta. Duran was Seattle’s first round pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft, but he has not appeared in an MLS match. ... Montreal will open renovated Stade Saputo tonight. The Sounders visited the stadium Friday, but they trained elsewhere to help preserve the newly installed grass.
SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC (7-3-3, 24 POINTS) AT MONTREAL IMPACT (3-7-3; 12)
4:30 p.m. PDT, Stade Saputo, Montreal
TV: Ch. 6/16. RADIO: 97.3-FM, 99.3-FM (Spanish).
CLUB LEADERS: Seattle – Goals 5, David Estrada; Assists 3, Alex Caskey and Fredy Montero; Shots 65, Montero; Shots on goal 23, Montero; Goals-against average 0.92, Bryan Meredith. Montreal – Goals 4, Bernardo Corradi; Assists 2, Felipe Martins and Lamar Neagle; Shots 28, Felipe Martins; Shots on goal 16, Sanna Nyassi; Goals-against average 1.57, Donovan Ricketts.
HEAD TO HEAD: This is their first MLS meeting, and the only scheduled meeting this season. Seattle went 13-9-2 vs. Montreal in lower-division play from 1994-2008.
NOTES: This is Montreal’s opening game in its renovated soccer-specific stadium: Stade Saputo. The Impact went 2-1-2 while using Olympic Stadium as a temporary home. … The Sounders have a 10-game road unbeaten streak (7-0-3), two short of the league record. … The Impact roster includes former Sounders Tyson Wahl, Miguel Montano, Neagle and Nyassi. The Sounders acquired Eddie Johnson from Montreal, although he did not play there. Seattle reserve keeper Andrew Weber played with the USL Impact from 2006-08. … Montero is expected to become the first player to make 100 appearances as a Sounder. Montreal’s Davy Arnaud could make his 225th MLS start. … Montreal is 2-1-2 over its last five matches. Seattle is 0-2-2 over its last four. … This marks the end of a three-week break in MLS play for both clubs. … Sounders goal-leader Estrada is out with a broken foot. Midfielder Osvaldo Alonso will conclude his two-game disciplinary suspension. … Nyassi is one caution away from yellow-card suspension. … The referee is Mark Geiger.
QUOTABLE: “(Seattle has) a lot of quality players on the field who are dangerous. They have a good blend of players who complement each other, who obviously like to play together. I think there are similar philosophies in the way that the two teams play.” – Montreal coach Jesse Marsch.
NEXT: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sporting Kansas City, CenturyLink Field.