Since D.C. United's season came to an unceremonious close earlier this month, we've heard about players that might be leaving RFK Stadium for a variety of reasons. What we haven't heard is anything about new faces coming in. That may be changing after a series of tweets regarding Seattle Sounders winger/forward Lamar Neagle:
Just ran into a man who said the Sounders traded his son-in-law, Lamar Neagle, to DC United last week. #ebfg— Mike Standish (@MikeStandish) November 28, 2015
He added this his son-in-law is not happy about this, as you might guess. I said, "Well, that's shitty." He agreed. I bid him farewell.— Mike Standish (@MikeStandish) November 28, 2015
For anyone wondering exactly how my Lamar Neagle rumor came to be: https://t.co/AkSdzfibSJ— Mike Standish (@MikeStandish) November 28, 2015
Neagle, a 28 year old from just outside Seattle, has spent 5 seasons with the Sounders in two stints since signing with Seattle in the middle of the 2009 season. During the 2015 regular season, he put up 4 goals and 2 assists in 31 league appearances (23 starts), a step down from the previous two years (9 goals/9 assists in in 32 appearances in 2014, and 8 goals/4 assists in 30 appearances in 2013). Neagle was on a $165,000 base salary per the most recent MLS Players Union salary list, and signed a three-year contract at the beginning of 2015.
Neagle's last league goal came on June 28th, and he had just 1 assist in the 13 appearances he made in MLS since then. However, in this season's CONCACAF Champions League he started all four of Seattle's group stage games and finished with 3 goals (all against the Vancouver Whitecaps).
While this is a rumor based on a tweet recapping a discussion with a random person, it does make more than a little sense for both teams involved. The Sounders are strongly rumored to be on the verge of signing frequent USMNT call-up Jordan Morris to a Homegrown contract, which would strongly reduce the available minutes for Neagle as a striker (which were already hard enough to come by on a team with Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey, Nelson Haedo Valdez, and Chad Barrett).
The flanks are also pretty much a logjam for Seattle. Valdez and Andreas Ivanschitz established themselves as very strong players upon arriving in the summer, and Marco Pappa is still there too. Promising youngster Cristian Roldan has spent time in both wide midfield roles, while players like Erik Friberg and Brad Evans can also play those positions. Throw in three more Sounders academy products who all play as either forwards or wide midfielders (Victor Mansaray, Darwin Jones, and Aaron Kovar), and you can see how Seattle is going to have to move a player or two.
For United, acquiring attacking speed should really be at the top of the list this winter. Neagle may not be in MLS's elite when it comes to pace, but he's faster than any potential DCU starting attacker (and possibly faster than anyone starting for United, period). With Alvaro Saborio failing to convince as a starter and Chris Pontius strongly rumored to be facing a decision between taking a pay cut or finding a new club, an experienced MLS starter that can play left midfield or up top fits the bill for United.
The fact that Neagle is a more "to the point" player - that is, he runs in behind defenses and chooses to shoot rather than pass on a regular basis - would add some balance to a Black-and-Red attack that has a lot of pass-first players. Hypothetically assuming that United isn't trading a player for Neagle to make this rumored deal a reality, it seems reasonable to expect that he'd have a strong chance of starting on the left wing for Ben Olsen's side.
So how strong is this rumor? We checked with our sister site Sounder at Heart, who for obvious reasons are also trying to track down more information. Here's what S@H's Dave Clark had to say after looking into things on their end:
I believe @MikeStandish. I cannot independently confirm or deny the rumor he's got about Neagle. I am not writing SaH story, at this time.— Dave Clark (@bedirthan) November 28, 2015
S@H wrote about Neagle's situation fairly recently, which included some quotes from Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid that perhaps explain why Neagle's influence for the Sounders faded down the stretch.
When reached for comment, a United spokesperson said "We can't comment on any player transactions at this time."
Assuming the news is true, the question becomes what United would have to give up to make the deal. An international roster spot seems likely to be involved; the Sounders currently have 8 international players on their roster but only 7 international roster spots (So how they were roster compliant? Multiple internationals ended up on the injured reserve list). It seems unlikely that DC is sending a player west in exchange, as those injured reserve players mean that Seattle will have to trade, cut, or sell two players just to get within MLS's overall roster size limits.