Sounders FC trade TJ grad Lamar Neagle to Montreal
By CASEY OLSON
Federal Way Mirror Sports editor
February 23, 2012 · Updated 12:24 PM
Lamar Neagle's road to his hometown professional soccer team took a detour. Seattle Sounders FC announced Saturday they had traded the Thomas Jefferson graduate, along with Mike Fucito, to the Montreal Impact for United States international forward Eddie Johnson.
“We have made our team much stronger,” said Impact head coach Jesse Marsch. “Lamar Neagle is a player who is a very good offensive threat from wide positions and has also shown that he can score goals.”
Montreal acquired Johnson earlier in the day with the No. 1 pick in Major League Soccer's (MLS) allocation process. The expansion Impact will play their inaugural season in MLS this year. Johnson, 27, signed with MLS last week after spending much of the past five years with Fulham of the English Premier League.
“Eddie is a high quality striker who is a very good finisher,” said Sounders FC technical director Chris Henderson, who coached Johnson at Kansas City. “We are very excited to have him join Sounders FC in our quest for another successful season.”
A member of the U.S. National Team since scoring in his debut in 2004, Johnson has made 41 appearances with 12 goals for the senior team. He has scored eight goals in only nine FIFA World Cup qualifying appearances, and is the only U.S. player to score a hat trick coming off the bench (Oct. 13, 2004).
Johnson became the first player in national team history to score in each of his first four appearances, three of which were 2006 World Cup qualifying matches. He is one of the most prolific scorers in U.S. Youth National Team history, tallying 37 career goals in 51 international youth games with the U-17s, U-20s and U-23s.
Despite getting the internationally-seasoned Johnson, it was still tough for the Sounders' brass to let go of popular and talented players like Neagle and Fucito.
“It’s always difficult to part ways with two quality individuals who have contributed greatly to the success of our first three years,” said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid. “We saw this as a unique opportunity to bring a player in with World Cup experience who can help us in our quest to win the MLS Cup.”
But the trade might actually be better for Neagle, in terms of playing time. In Seattle, Neagle was already behind Mauro Rosales and Alvaro Fernandez on the depth chart. Steve Zakuani continues to make progress and could be back in full in a few months after suffering a broken leg last season. Also, newcomer Christian Sivebaek has been one of more the impressive players so far this preseason for Sounders FC.
Neagle, 24, was signed by the Sounders on March 2, 2011. The winger/forward finished with seven total goals, including the club’s second-ever hat trick. The three-goal performance against the Columbus Crew earned him MLS Player of the Week, named by the North American Soccer Reporters (NASR).
By the end of the season, Neagle was playing in every game for head coach Sigi Schmid, mostly off the bench. He tallied his seventh goal of the year during the second leg of the Western Conference Semifinals against Real Salt Lake.
The Sounders showed even more confidence in Neagle when they protected him in the recent MLS Expansion Draft. The team was only able to protect 11 total players.
“As one of the guys that was coming off the bench, I was kind of on the radar,” Neagle said following the 2011 season . “So I didn’t know who they were going to protect. I think I found out a few hours before the protected list came out and I just started getting congratulations.”
But Neagle’s journey to the Seattle Sounders didn’t happen overnight. It’s actually one of perseverance.
Just one short year ago, Neagle was about as far away from his Federal Way home as possible. He was playing professional soccer in Mariehamn, Finland. The lower-level European league in Finland was actually Neagle’s third stop during his 2010 soccer journey.
He started the year in the Sounders’ training camp after spending the 2009 season on Seattle’s reserve roster. He was waived after the 2009 season, resigned by the Sounders before the team’s next training camp and then eventually cut.
“It was always kind of motivation to me when I got cut,” Neagle said. “It helped keep me going.”
The adversity didn’t deter Neagle. After being let go by the Sounders, he signed on to play with the Charleston (S.C.) Battery of the United Soccer Leagues. Neagle’s team not only won the league championship, but he was named the Most Valuable Player after tallying 12 goals.
Neagle then signed with Mariehamn, where he scored two goals in just five matches for the Finland side before getting the call to come back to his hometown Sounders.
Johnson is a native of Daytona Beach, Fla., and returns to MLS where he began his professional career. He played four seasons for FC Dallas before joining Kansas City for two seasons, scoring 41 goals with 13 assists in 127 MLS appearances.
The 6-foot striker spent four seasons with Fulham, signing with the EPL side in 2007. He made 19 appearances with the senior team. Johnson was loaned to English League Championship side Cardiff City for the 2008-09 season where he appeared in 30 games and scored two goals. In 2009 he was loaned to Aris of the Greek Super League, appearing in 12 games with one goal. Johnson’s stint in Europe ended with a loan to Championship side Preston North End where he scored one goal in 16 appearances.
Fucito, 25, was selected by Seattle in the fourth round (46th overall) of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. In his three seasons with Sounders FC, he scored three goals with two assists in 23 appearances. Fucito added five goals with one assist in the 2010 and 2011 CONCACAF Champions League and also scored two goals in the 2011 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Sounders FC opens their season against Mexico’s Santos Laguna in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals on March 7. Seattle begins MLS play on March 17 against Toronto FC on the Xbox Pitch at CenturyLink Field.
Birthplace (citizenship): Daytona Beach, Florida (United States)
Hometown: Dayton Beach, Florida
Previous Clubs: FC Dallas (2000-2005), Kansas City (2006-2007), Fulham (2007-2011; loan to Cardiff City, 2008-2009; loan to Aris, 2010; loan to Preston North End, 2011)
Contact Federal Way Mirror Sports editor Casey Olson at email@example.com or (253) 925-5565 ext. 5056.