Sounders midfielder Lamar Neagle has been below his best in recent weeks.
He admitted as much last week, in the run up to Seattle’s match against Chivas USA on Wednesday. Neagle would get the start for the Sounders in place of the absent Marco Pappa, his first since losing his mark on Real Salt Lake’s first goal in a mid-August defeat.
“I think I had a little bit of a slump but I’m coming out of it,” Neagle said. “It’s a long season, so those things happen with teams and individual players.
“(I’m) focusing more on the smaller things instead of thinking, ‘yeah, I need to score in this next big game, at that big moment.’ I need to get some goals in practice, some tap-ins in practice, to work my way up again.”
The goals were there for the taking at the StubHub Center.
Obafemi Martins and Andy Rose scored two apiece in the first half alone as Seattle romped to 4-0 halftime advantage. The lead was so comfortable that when asked at the break whether he would protect his stars with early substitutes, Sounders coach Sigi Schmid responded that Martins and strike partner Clint Dempsey would probably rather stay in and add to their tally.
Martins provided credence to the theory in the 36th minute, when leading a 2-on-none break with Dempsey and only Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy to beat. Martins could have played a pass to across the box for a Dempsey tap-in but elected to take the shot himself and go for the hat trick — a shot that was blocked wide.
20 minutes earlier, Neagle had a similar decision to make.
Dempsey had played Neagle in behind a Chivas USA defense that stood frozen, appealing for an offside flag that never came. The attacker charged in alone with Kennedy, not a defender in sight.
Then he dropped a pass back for Martins to finish into an empty net.
“His opportunities, he knows, will come again,” Schmid said after training last week. “It’s just a matter of taking advantage of them.”
Neagle never did get his goal.
Chivas flipped the field in the second half and scored a pair of consolation tallies of its own. But he never forced it.
And his pass worked just as well as one.
By the numbers: 54 percent — Chivas’ edge in the possession statistics Wednesday night, including a 16-12 edge in shots.
In their own words: “I think set pieces, we haven’t been too strong on set pieces. To be able to get three goals off of set pieces, it says a lot about determination. The center backs get to run 40 yards every time we get a free kick and be willing to fight and scrap and make good runs” — Sounders midfielder Brad Evans
Up next: Sounders vs. Real Salt Lake at CenturyLink Field on Sept. 12.