By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org
Thursday, March 3, 2016
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Before the partnership between the USL and Major League Soccer. Before Dom Dwyer won USL and MLS championships in the same season. Before a record 12 players – and potentially counting – made the move from the USL to MLS this offseason.
Before all of that, there was Lamar Neagle.
Sure, players moved to MLS from USL clubs before Neagle, and many more after. But Neagle’s pathway has become in many ways the model for young professionals looking to make their way into the top flight, as Neagle’s career has taken off over the past five years after using his time in Charleston as the springboard.
As he approaches 150 regular-season appearances in MLS, Neagle still looks back happily on his time with the Battery.
“That was a special year,” he said recently. “Every weekend it seemed like we had that confidence where we knew we were going to win. It didn’t matter if we went down, or if it was the 90th minute and we still hadn’t scored, we still knew we were going to win, and that would end up happening.”
Neagle’s partnership with Tom Heinemann propelled the Battery to a championship in 2010, and saw both make the jump to MLS the next season. A native of Federal Way, Wash., Neagle spent four of the past five seasons with Seattle Sounders FC, where he became a consistent starter with 77 starts over the past three seasons.
Now, after an offseason trade, Neagle is set to make a new start this year with D.C. United, where the club’s history and revamped squad have the 28-year-old looking forward to the new season.
“It’s awesome, to be able to have that history in MLS and to look back, hopefully we can bring back some of the glory days and win a championship,” Neagle said. “I know we’ve got a hard-working team, and that’s a lot of what I’ve brought as a professional, [being] a hard worker and trying to be as versatile as possible and fitting in wherever they need me. I think a lot of guys have the same mentality on this team.”
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United’s partnership with the Richmond Kickers, which was recently extended, has paid dividends over the past two seasons for the club, with players like Andrew Dykstra and Taylor Kemp playing a role in helping the Kickers to success before seeing action in D.C. more recently. After his experience with the Battery, Neagle has been pleased to see the growth of the partnership between the two leagues.
“I definitely benefitted from that, going down and being able to develop my game and get the confidence that I could play in MLS,” Neagle said. “From college to MLS, you see a lot of guys that fall by the wayside because they didn’t have those teams, so to have more teams, and the development with the league getting bigger and better, it’s better for everybody.”
A long way now from his days in the USL, Neagle is eager to help D.C. return to the top of the Eastern Conference as the new MLS season kicks off this Sunday.“I’m just excited where we can go,” Neagle said. “We have the new logo, we have a lot of new players, and we have the new stadium coming in the next couple of years, so hopefully we can get a good transition and make something special.”