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SOCCER: Lamar Neagle, Sounders FC hitting their strides
By MATT GASCHK
For the third straight year the Seattle Sounders FC will play in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Nate Jaqua, Fredy Montero and Thomas Jefferson graduate Lamar Neagle scored for the Sounders and Terry Boss made five saves to lift the Sounders to a 3-1 win over the LA Galaxy at the Starfire Sports Complex Wednesday, giving the club 10 straight wins in the Open Cup.
“Our guys really respond to the fans and the intimate atmosphere here. I think it’s tremendous and it gives the fans a chance to see it up close and personal,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said, noting the crowd of 4,322 at cozy Starfire. “Our goal is always whatever we enter, we’re going to try to win.”
Dating back to the USL era of the Seattle Sounders, Seattle has reached the Open Cup semifinals five straight years, with the USL club falling in the semifinals in 2007 to FC Dallas and 2008 to the Charleston Battery.
Jaqua tallied the first goal of the game in the fourth minute. Jaqua was one-on-one with Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders and caught him off-guard with a left-footed shot that beat him inside the right post for a 1-0 lead.
The Sounders (9-4-8) extended the lead to 2-0 in the 25th minute on a goal from Montero.
Los Angeles was able to pull one back in the 40th minute, though, when Chris Brichall got free up the right side and crossed the ball into the box. Adam Cristman charged into the middle and knocked it into the open side of the net to make it 2-1.
But it was Neagle’s goal in the 74th minute that essentially put the game out of reach. The 2005 Jefferson grad tallied his second goal of the season on a pass from Alvaro Fernandez.
Fernandez led Neagle on a run up the right side and the forward pounded a shot across the body of Saunders and into the net for a 3-1 lead.
“Flaco (Fernandez) played a great ball, I ran across the back line to kind of keep an eye on a guy,” Neagle said. “He played a great ball and I just got a flick on it and it went in the side netting.”
Neagle has started four matches this season and played in 12 games total for the Sounders.
The win over the Galaxy sends Seattle into the semifinals of the US Open Cup, where they will take on FC Dallas, who topped Real Salt Lake 2-0 on Tuesday night.
Neagle was also huge during the Sounders’ MLS win over the rival Portland Timbers on Sunday. Unlike the Open Cup match against LA, which Neagle played the entire 90 minutes, he came off the bench during the 3-2 win over the Timbers.
He entered the match in the 66th minute and in the 69th minute, he outran Portland right back Steve Purdy to chase down a long ball from Patrick Ianni in the back to earn a corner kick. It was a simple play, but a sign of things to come as Neagle would wind up tormenting the Portland defense through the remainder of the match with his speed up the left side.
“It was hot out there and I knew the right back was going to be tired. After the first ball got played over the top and I beat him to it I knew there was no way he was going to stay with me,” Neagle said. “A lot of the confidence is the first couple touches in the match, especially coming on as a sub. On that one I ended up getting the ball, playing it and keeping it. I knew I was going to have a good half.”
Neagle came on as a change of pace for the more deliberate approach by Fernandez and paid dramatic dividends. He beat Purdy to a ball on the left side in the 74th minute, then crossed it to Mauro Rosales, who set up Fredy Montero for his second goal of the night to equalize at 2-2. Then in the 81st minute, he sprinted past Eric Brunner to get to a lobbed ball from Osvaldo Alonso, forcing Brunner into a foul in the box that resulted in Alonso scoring the game-winning penalty. Brunner was also sent off on the play, leaving the Sounders with the man-advantage for the final ten minutes of the match.
“He’s a little bit different than some of our players. Fernandez plays with more touches and is a little more complicated as a player sometimes,” Schmid said. “Lamar is a lot more simple as a player. He has that simplicity and sometimes when he replaces a guy like Flaco, for the defender it presents a whole different challenge.”
This season has been one of many great achievements for Neagle after an MVP season with the Charleston Battery last year.
He appeared in five matches off the bench, and then replaced an injured Fernandez in a grudge match with Real Salt Lake on May 28. He wound up scoring the game-winning goal on an incredible strike that was voted MLS Goal of the Week. Schmid rewarded him by starting him in four of the next five matches, but he has since returned to the bench in the last two matches.
In between, he built confidence by helping the Sounders to a 7-0-0 record in the MLS Reserve League.
In just four matches, Neagle has three goals and two assists, getting a goal and an assist last week against the LA Galaxy in the Reserve League.
One of the adjustments Neagle has found himself making is in coming off the bench, as opposed to starting like he did for Charleston and Mariehamn in Finland last year.
“It’s tough. Coming in as a sub is hard. I’ve talked to some of the other guys about it. I don’t know what it is, but after the first five or ten minutes, you’re dead tired. I don’t know if it’s the adrenaline or the different warm-up,” he said. “You want to get into the flow of things and get your first couple of touches down and keep the ball. But you also have to be effective in those few minutes that you get in order to get more time.”