In 2012, Lewis Neal scored the goal that sent the Black-and-Red into the MLS playoffs for the first time in five years. In 2013, he scored the goal that won D.C. United the Open Cup trophy—the lone bright spot in a season that, otherwise, is better left forgotten.
In 2014, Lewis Neal—sorry, LEWIS NEAL—didn't make the same kind of memorable impact. Then again, he gave himself two pretty tough acts to follow, so we probably can't fault him too much.
Neal fills the same defensive midfield roles that Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud do, and he does so reliably, if usually off the bench. Out of 26 appearances for DCU in 2014, he only made seven starts, playing the full 90 minutes for five of those. In DC's game away to Toronto in July, he came on in the 62nd minute for Luis Silva and just seven minutes later swung in the corner kick that assisted Perry Kitchen's game-winning header.
In the CONCACAF Champions League, Neal played a full 90 in three out of the Black-and-Red's four group stage games. He's an undeniably valuable depth player who, when Ben Olsen brings him on as a defensive sub to help see out a game, I'm rarely worried will do anything to mess things up. Neal does his job. It's a quality you want in a player, and even though it's not the most exciting quality to have, perhaps, it sure can be nice.
Neal made a base salary of $100,000 ($106,440.63 guaranteed—damn, that's specific) in 2014. Turning 34 next year, he's not quite at "about to retire" age, but he's getting there. At the same time, he's useful to have on the bench, and with three years under his belt now for DCU, he's somewhat of a veteran on this team. For my money, I'd like him to stick around for at least another year, but this isn't up to me.
It's up to you guys. Is Neal worth keeping around for 2015? Does he have another season-making goal in him? Cast your vote, and share your thoughts in the comments.