As happy as he was to be returning to his hometown team, Neagle knew competition for playing time was going to be even more fierce than it was with the Montreal Impact.
Somewhat expectedly, Neagle found himself firmly tethered to the bench for the Sounders’ first seven matches across all competitions, logging just 30 minutes.
When he finally got his chance to shine, he made the most of it. Neagle scored a goal in a substitute appearance against Santos Laguna in CONCACAF Champions League and followed that up with a solid performance in a starting role a few days later in a scoreless draw against the New England Revolution.
“He did what I asked him to do,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He stayed high, he occupied the two center backs. He made runs into spaces. He stretched their defense. I wanted to him to get on the end of things, he could have been more dangerous, but all the other things he did well.”
Although Neagle had played forward before, it was usually in a more withdrawn position. He said this was the first time he had played more of a traditional No. 9 role in which he was asked to hold up the ball and play with his back to goal more often.
That also helps explain why two of his best moments came when he was able to run at defenders.
The first came in the 14th minute when he won a ball near midfield, sped ahead of the defense and laid out a well-weighted pass to Steve Zakuani at the back post where the shot was blocked by defender Jose Goncalves. Later in the first half, he set up Mauro Rosales for an open look at the top of the penalty area, but the shot went well high.
“When you don’t win, you’re disappointed,” Neagle said. “But watching the video and seeing how I played, I think I did a pretty good job. It’s still unfortunate we didn’t get one in the back of the net with all the chances we had.”
Neagle knows that as the Sounders get closer to full strength his minutes might diminish again. But he’s hopeful that he’s at least earned himself another chance when it presents itself.
“We all want to be out there playing, so when you’re not playing it’s frustrating,” he said. “But I knew I wasn’t going to be one of the starters. You just have to keep a level head.”