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D.C. United season review: Lamar Neagle

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He led the team in goals this season, but is he better off the bench?

When D.C. United acquired Lamar Neagle from Seattle, they were getting a player who had scored 21 goals and added 15 assists over the previous three seasons with the Sounders. Playing primarily in wide midfield, he became a regular starter from day one, often opposite Patrick Nyarko, and contributed nine goals and six assists over the course of the year. While Neagle saw his starts dwindle once Lloyd Sam arrived in the District, his production continued and his efficiency increased, which brings into question whether Neagle is better suited as a substitute than as a starter.

Neagle announced his presence with authority, giving United an unexpected early lead in the season opener at the Los Angeles Galaxy, a game which United would eventually lose 4-1. He started the first 18 games of the year and 21 games overall, posting six goals and four assists in those starts. He started one game after D.C. traded for Lloyd Sam, and then started just three more of the remaining 16 games.

Once he moved to the bench, Neagle made 10 appearances as a substitute. In those games, he scored three goals and contributed two assists. On the surface, he scored and assisted half as many goals as a sub (3G/2A) than as a starter (6G/4A) while subbing in half as many games (10) as he started (21). However, when comparing the minutes played as starter (1765) with those played as a substitute (194), his efficiency changes considerably when coming off the bench.

Neagle saw stark improvements in his production across goals, assists, and shots per goal when he came off the bench. While it’s difficult to explain how he went from scoring a goal every 294.2 minutes as a starter to scoring every 64.67 minutes as a substitute, it’s clear that coming off the bench did wonders for his efficiency in both scoring and assisting goals. He even improved the frequency with which his shots resulted in goals from 6.67 shots per goal as a starter to 3.67 as a substitute.

With Lloyd Sam and Patrick Nyarko presumably entrenched as the starting wide midfielders for 2017, Lamar Neagle remains as an attractive and productive bench option. That said, Neagle is younger than Sam, and in scoring 9 goals he equaled his most prolific professional season (2014), so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Neagle can or should be counted on to start more many more games next season. Either way, he was an important contributor for DCU in 2016, even if the role he should play is in question.