On Monday, the same day United announced it had traded Chris Pontius to the Philadelphia Union, the MLS club acquired attacker Lamar Neagle from the Seattle Sounders — a left wing leaves, a left wing arrives.
The Insider on Thursday met up with Neagle, who was in town with his wife Natalie, a registered nurse, to search for an apartment and attend United’s new-logo unveiling at Union Market. The couple was not planning to visit until next week, but United offered to fly them in early and meet the staff and supporters at the logo event.
What you should know about him …
1. The basics.
He’s 28 years old. He’ll turn 29 in May. He is a Pacific Northwest native. He played four years at UNLV but wasn’t chosen in the MLS draft. Seattle signed him after a trial in 2009. He has played for the Sounders on three different tours (2009, 2011, 2013-15). In between, there were stops in South Carolina (third-division Charleston Battery), Finland (Mariehamn) and Canada (Montreal Impact). He was part of a 2012 trade with Montreal that allowed the Sounders to acquire the rights to U.S. national team forward Eddie Johnson, who was returning to MLS from Fulham. Johnson eventually joined United for the 2014 season.
2. Neagle was not surprised about the trade.
“From the way it was going with playing time, I figured toward the end of the season I was going to be traded. And knowing if we didn’t win it all, they were going to be making some big changes. Realistically, I probably wasn’t going to be traded to a West Coast team and play against them often. It was probably going to be further away. So I was ready for it.
“There was some talk about how the team was going to be structured with lower salaries and high salaries. The mid-salaries were going to be squeezed out. Some teams are going that way, and we are one of them, I was told. If something good popped up for Seattle, I couldn’t blame them from a business sense.
“I knew about the trade a couple weeks in advance. I don’t take it too seriously until the paperwork is all signed because anything could happen, but I knew. It was nice knowing in advance because I have a lot of friends around the league who are so unsure of what is going to happen. It’s hard to go through the holidays not knowing where you are going to be.
“When my agent [Kevin Legg] first asked, ‘What do you think about D.C.?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Really cool city.’ I’ve only been here a few times. When we came from the West Coast, we got an extra day because of the time difference and travel, so I walked around and saw the monuments and White House. I’m excited to experience it and to live in an East Coast city.”
3. Neagle’s playing time dried up late this season.
After appearing in the first 29 league matches (22 as a starter), Neagle then made just two appearances (one start) in the last five regular season games. In the playoffs, he was on the game-day roster and didn’t play against Los Angeles and was left off the 18-man squad for the two-leg conference semifinals against Dallas.
“At one point, I went to [Coach] Sigi [Schmid]. His opinion was there were a few other guys ahead of me. I can’t really say anything about that; it’s the coach’s decision.”
4. Despite deep ties to the Pacific Northwest, Neagle welcomes a fresh start.
“Three years for a team is a good amount of time, and I was in and out in Seattle before that. I like the idea of going under different coaches and trying to develop in different ways. I think this is going to be a good opportunity for me. The minutes were dwindling at the end of the year in Seattle; by the end I wasn’t even in the 18. It’s a good point in my career to go somewhere else. To got picked up early [in the offseason]; it’s a sign D.C. really wants me.”
5. Neagle is a natural left wing who can play advanced roles.
“In 2013, I was up top with Obafemi Martins and had a great run [eight goals, four assists]. Clint Dempsey came in and I got pushed wide again [and recorded nine goals and nine assists in 2014]. This year, I was on the outside in a 4-4-2 and up top alone in a 4-5-1 [and had four goals and two assists]. All the moving around, it was a frustrating year.”
6. He has been teammates with two United players previously: Nick DeLeon at UNLV for one year and Davy Arnaud in Montreal for one year.
Neagle said he crossed paths with D.C. captain Bobby Boswell at the MLS players’ union meetings in Las Vegas this week but didn’t get a chance to talk at length about the move to United.
“You have no idea about fitting in until you jump into it. Looking at their style of play and the personalities they have on the team, I would fit in just right on and off the field. They have a ton of hard workers and guys who work for each other. That fits my playing style.”
7. Neagle wore No. 27 with Seattle but chose No. 13 with United, Pontius’s number for seven seasons. (Pontius had chosen No. 13 because he idolized NFL Hall of Famer Dan Marino.)
“There’s no connection with Chris leaving and my number choice. I knew immediately that people might be upset about that because he played here a long time. I was number 13 in high school. I was the 13th grandchild on my mom’s side. Thirteen is the age Natalie and I first met. It has always been my lucky number, favorite number. I’ve got “XIII” tattooed on my left arm. I never got the number in college or MLS, so I was excited to get it here.”