WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lamar Neagle shouldn’t need much motivation to start his 2016 season.
Following his offseason move from Seattle to D.C. United, Neagle was reduced to a cup-tied spectator for United’s two-leg CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal with Queretaro. He caught only highlights of the Sounders’ quarterfinal against Club América.
And as a result of the enforced off-field role, practice might have even been tougher than matchday for the 28-year-old winger from a competitive standpoint, as he was often forced to the sidelines for the more tactical portions of training.
“Definitely weird,” Neagle said of the experience. “I see old teammates that are still playing in the same tournament that I was a part of in Seattle, and then to be here with my new team and watching my new teammates battling on the field and not being able to help out. So in trainings, for me, it’s different, and understandably so.”
Neagle could regain some normalcy and make his D.C. debut against the Galaxy on Sunday (10 pm ET, UniMás), though where he will play is unknown.
Despite Neagle’s abilities on the flank, he could get pushed up top as United head coach Ben Olsen manages an abundance of face-to-goal attackers. Alvaro Saborio, United’s only true target forward, began both CCL quarterfinal matches on the bench and did not play at all in Tuesday's series-deciding draw against Queretaro.
Injuries forced Neagle into plenty of striker duty for the Sounders last season. But he finished with only four league goals and two assists, falling out of favor with coach Sigi Schmid in the process.
Still, he says he’s not worried what Olsen might decide.
“Just trying to really fit in where I can,” Neagle said. “We have a lot of options when it comes to outside mids and forwards, so it will be interesting to see what happens during the season, how it all fans out.”
United hope they bought low on Neagle, much as they did with MLS veterans Fabian Espindola and Chris Rolfe. Espindola’s first season in D.C. was the best of his career from a production standpoint. Rolfe’s 10 goals last season were also a career high.
Despite missing out on the CCL knockout games the past couple weeks, Neagle says the preseason has convinced him D.C. was the right move.
“Obviously it’s always tough leaving home, but always excited to come to a place like D.C., especially with more of a players’ coach,” the Tacoma, Wash., native said. “I think the guys have turned out to be great. ... I knew a few of them, but you never know what the group make up is going to be. I’m very happy with it.”