Lamar Neagle figures he's now up to speed in MLS.
The Seattle forward proved it by scoring his first career hat trick on a record-setting afternoon as the Sounders beat the Columbus Crew 6-2 on Saturday.
Neagle scored twice during a four-goal first-half for the Sounders (13-5-9) and completed the hat trick in the 70th minute when a shot from the top of the penalty area bounced off the crossbar and dropped behind the goal line.
''The level was a bit too fast for me in 2009,'' Neagle said of his first brief stint with the Sounders. ''Going down to Charleston (of the USL Second Division) really helped me out.''
Added Sounders coach Sigi Schmid: ''He's working on his first touch, which is something that is helping his game come along. His first goal was a little bit fortunate. The second one was clinical, and on his third one, he loves cutting inside and hitting that.''
Seattle's offensive outburst overshadowed what also became a record-breaking day for Columbus' Jeff Cunningham. The Crew forward became the leading goal-scorer in MLS history when he converted a penalty kick in the 59th minute. That was his 134th goal, eclisping the previous mark set by Jaime Moreno in a 15-year league career, 14 of which were spent with D.C. United.
Cunningham tied Moreno's record when he scored in a 1-0 win at Vancouver on July 6, but had been kept off the board since then. He also is the Crew's all-time leading scorer, now with 64 goals.
''I'm going to keep this ball for the rest of my life,'' Cunningham said. ''I'm very humbled of Jaime Moreno, Brian McBride, Landon Donovan, and all of those guys. The list goes on, and I'm just honored to be grouped with those guys.''
Columbus (11-8-7) had a two-game winning streak snapped.
Neagle's strikes in the fourth and 21st minutes were sandwiched around a penalty kick by Mauro Rosales in the 16th minute. The three goals in 17 minutes were the fastest in the three-year history of the Sounders, beating their old record of three in 19 minutes against New England on June 5, 2010.
Mike Fucito made it 4-0 in the 40th minute, giving the Sounders their first-ever four-goal half. The six goals for the game was a team record, breaking the old mark of four.
''We haven't had a game like this where we've gotten off to a good start in a while. Usually, it's the other way around where we have to kind of dig ourselves out of a hole,'' Neagle said. ''It was nice that we were connecting at the beginning and throughout the whole game. We were all on the same page offensively and defensively for the most part, except toward the end.''
The fourth-minute goal by Neagle tied for the earliest ever by a Sounder. After taking a short pass from Fucito, Neagle went one on one downfield with Crew defender Rich Balchan. Finally, from just to the left of the penalty area restraining arc, Neagle fired toward the far post. Columbus goalkeeper William Hesmer went down and deflected the shot with his left hand, but it rolled behind him and into the net.
Josh Gardner scored in the 73rd minute for Columbus, but then gave it right back when he knocked a ball into his own net in the 74th minute for Seattle's sixth goal.
''The goals we gave up today were not the best ones. We made a lot of mistakes and they punished us,'' Crew coach Robert Warzycha said. ''To be honest, they were moving quicker and were more aggressive with the ball. Sometimes, we tried to help and shift, and another (Sounder) would be open.''