Sometimes you have to just want it really bad.
And sometimes it works out.
That’s what happened on Wednesday when the Sounders FC announced they had signed San Diego rookie midfielder Servando Carrasco and Charleston Battery forward Lamar Neagle, who hails from Tacoma/Federal Way, Thomas Jefferson High School and the Norpoint Chivas, the local youth soccer club that nurtured Neagle’s talent.
Both players share the desire to excel at the highest level of soccer. But their journeys took them on different but equally compelling paths that eventually landed them in Jet City and roster spots on the Sounders.
For Neagle, it was listening to Coach Sigi Schmid tell him at last year’s preseason camp that he needed to get some more professional seasoning. He had originally played college at University Nevada Las Vegas but Schmid told him he wasn’t ready. If he was serious about playing Major League Soccer, he needed to sharpen his skills against tougher competition.
So, Neagle joined the USL-2 Charleston Battery, where he scored 12 goals in 19 regular season matches to earn Golden Boot and MVP honors in USL-2 — the third tier of U.S. professional soccer. The Battery went on to win the 2010 USL-2 championship.
“Its a great story,” Schmid said. “Its a reflection of the effort that he put in.”
Neagle’s experience with The Battery and in Finland elevated his confidence. He improved his game enough that he got another chance to make the Sounders’ roster. Schmid said the difference over last year was palpable.
“He had gained a lot of confidence,” Schmid said. “His versatility is another, and when he dropped down, he had a knack for finding the goal, which he showed here. His one-touch layoffs are better, his decision making is better, his speed of play is better.”
Following the season Neagle signed with Finland’s IFK Mariehamn, where he played in five leagues matches last fall scoring two goals. He returned to Seattle as a free agent.
“I was a ballboy for the Sounders,” said Neagle, 23. “This is definitely something I wanted to be — and in my hometown it’s great.”
Neagle is joining Sounders for the second time. He signed on June 10, 2009, but was limited to action in friendlies versus Chelsea and Barcelona. The Sounders waived Neagle after the season. He spent the 2010 preseason training as an invitee. Neagle was a three-time Mountain Pacific Sports Federation first-team selection while at University Nevada Las Vegas.
“From the start, I knew I needed more games to get better, and now I’m ready to make a difference,” Neagle said. “The biggest difference is my confidence and feeling comfortable on the field. This is where I want to be.”
Carrasco has been another rookie that has impressed the coaching staff from the beginning. His competitive fire, technical skills and ball-winning mentality earned him a spot as Osvaldo Alonso’s understudy.
Carrasco, 22, was selected by Seattle with the 27th pick overall in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft. A defensive midfielder, Carrasco has played in all eight preseason games, starting three. He scored the winning goal in last Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire in Bradenton, Fla.
“He competes everyday — he wants to win,” Schmid said, joking that the coaching staff has to dial him down at practice because he works so hard. “Hes not afraid of a tackle. He strikes a good long ball. He’s been everything we thought he could be based on what we saw.”
Carrasco was born in San Diego but grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, and holds dual citizenship. He played all four years at the University of California and was a three-time All-Pac-10 selection, earning first team honors in 2010. Carrasco finished his collegiate career by starting all 20 games last fall for the Bears and scoring seven goals along with three assists.
“I’m very happy to officially become a part the Sounders, and I’m excited to get this season started,” said Carrasco. No surprise there.
The roster situation remains fluid, even though the Sounders are officially roster compliant. The Sounders have yet to officially offer all 28 roster spots — and they can bump it up to 30 — as long as players are willing to accept $32,600 and the numbers do not exceed the salary cap, which could be an issue for cap-constrained Seattle.
Schmid said the front office has made offers to about 25 players. There are still between 32 to 34 players in training camp — but some of them are just getting a look or just training with the team.
Here’s the latest:
- Argentine Mauro Rosales remains on trial and has not signed. The Sounders have until April 15 to sign him but Schmid said a decision will likely be in days, not weeks.
- Jonathon Prieto is no longer training with the team.
- Pat Noonan is still training with the Sounders and has an option on his contract that the front office has yet to trigger. General Manager Adrian Hanauer indicated Noonan’s fate would be decided shortly.
- A new unidentified player was training Wednesday but he is not expected to join the team.
- Rookie keepers Bryan Merideth and Josh Ford are making Schmid’s decision extremely difficult. He is planning to name the No. 3, Terry Boss is the clear No. 2, he said, but staff is looking at alternatives to keeping both goalies. “Theyre both good kids,” he said. “They’ve worked hard and certainly are capable of stepping out on the field and playing in the MLS one day.”