MONTREAL – Lamar Neagle hasn’t seen much of the Montreal Impact’s first team lately, but he certainly hasn’t disappeared from the radar.
When a chance to start in an MLS Reserve League came this week, Neagle made sure he seized it. The 24-year-old played 62 minutes against the Crew reserves and combined with the No.1 pick of the last MLS SuperDraft, Andrew Wenger, to score the first goal in a 2-1 success.
It’s one more step to a return to fitness for Neagle, who has battled injuries and played just 29 total minutes off the bench in two matches this season.
“I can still play through [the nagging injuries], but I don’t feel 100 percent,” Neagle told MLSsoccer.com after practice on Thursday. “I’m still trying to get to 100 percent, get the game fitness up. Those reserve games help you get confidence. Anytime you score a goal, even during practice, it feels good.”
Goals certainly helped Neagle become a fan favorite in Seattle (recall his hat trick in a 6-2 win against the Columbus Crew last August) before he was traded to Montreal with Mike Fucito for Eddie Johnson. With goals still a rarity for his new club so far, Neagle's strike with the reserves could convince head coach Jesse Marsch to give him some more minutes, including in the team’s matchup against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday (4 pm ET, TSN in Canada/watch LIVE online in the US).
“It all kind of adds up: how you perform in practice, in the reserve games,” Neagle explained. “Whenever you step on the field, you have to prove yourself. I look forward to [the next games], to being 100 percent, and then confidence will fully be back.”
With three games in eight days coming up for the Impact, one of the questions is now whether or not Neagle and Wenger will get a chance to join forces again for a first-team goal. Marsch will establish his 18-man list one game at a time, but both players are serious options for the near future.
While wide midfielders are asked to tuck in more in Marsch’s preferred formation, Neagle’s play naturally provides width in the final third, which does play in his favor should the Montreal boss decide to adjust his tactics mid-game.
“[Neagle and Wenger] were sharp in that game and have been good in general with us,” Marsch told reporters. “We’ll be counting on both of them for some minutes in the next three games for sure.”