Brad Evans Embraces His Opportunity at Right Back
For Seattle, Brad Evans plays the role of a Swiss army knife. Anywhere he is needed, he plays. That may be what landed him the starting right back position for the U.S., and Evans is just fine with that.
BY Liviu Bird PostedSEATTLE—Hometown fans know him as a utility man, a player who slots into the starting lineup wherever a gap needs filling. That ability has landed Brad Evans an unlikely spot as the United States national team’s starting right back. Suddenly, somehow, almost inexplicably, Evans finds himself as a sure bet to start a World Cup qualifier in his home stadium. “I think it will be something extremely special,” Evans told gathered media members at halftime of Seattle Sounders FC’s 3-2 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday. “Not many players get to experience something like this, so it will always be something I remember.” A game at CenturyLink Field without Evans on the field is a rare occasion, but even rarer is the chance to play with the national team under the same lights as he plays nearly every weekend. The task at hand: coming away with a home win against Panama, which has not lost yet in the CONCACAF Hexagonal round. “We are ready,” U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “We obviously need to confirm what we built now in the last couple of games, and we want to get three points on Tuesday night badly. It’s a must-win. Every home game is a must-win. We know that.” The team is coming off a 2-1 win in Jamaica, which Evans helped deliver with a last-gasp finish in second-half stoppage time on Friday in Kingston. After a 10-hour travel day, the U.S. arrived in Seattle on Saturday afternoon. SEE WHERE BRAD EVANS RANKS IN THE ASN 100 The chartered flight left Kingston in the early morning, making a fueling stop in Monterrey, Mexico, before continuing its journey to the Pacific Northwest. Even through the travel grogginess, Evans’ performance in Jamaica stuck out as a bright spot in an otherwise shaky team outing. “We felt it’s the right moment for [Evans] to get that opportunity, and he took it,” Klinsmann said. “We’re very pleased, and looking forward to Tuesday night, to another one.” Evans seized the chance he was given, getting the nod in the U.S.’s friendly win over Germany last week and performing well enough to keep his spot in a game that counted in the standings. “The thing I’ve been telling myself is each game brings a new opportunity,” Evans said, “and it’s up to me if I kind of stake my claim.” At the same time, he realized the reality of the situation. If Steve Cherundolo were healthy, he slots easily into right back (and has for many years). Timmy Chandler is another option, but he is currently injured. Geoff Cameron is on the roster, but Klinsmann opted to go with Evans instead. “Everybody wants to play in a World Cup, but there’s still a number of players that were supposed to be here that just weren’t here, for injury or because they played an extremely long season,” Evans said. “So in my mind, there’s still a number of guys that are ahead of me.” In the meantime, Evans is not afraid to enjoy his situation. Despite the success he has had in the past week, he still calls winning MLS Cup the biggest accomplishment of his career. Describing what it feels like to pull on his national team’s jersey, Evans sounds like a kid on Christmas morning. “Playing with these guys, the wealth of experience and the talent is really special,” he said, the bags under his eyes and his jetlagged voice failing to cover up his excitement. “When you’re playing with good players, it makes you look that much better.” Looking good on the field is something Evans can do in multiple positions. His contributions to a team are often quiet, earning him the label of the unsung laborer. When his club needs a central midfielder, he is there; when the Sounders need a wide midfielder, he is there. Evans has even been known to deputize at center back in a pinch. “I’ve been thrust into different positions before in the snap of a finger—the day of a game, changing positions; within a game, playing center back for 45 minutes; whatever it is—so it’s just having a positive attitude and kind of being a student of the game and recognizing that that’s my role and embracing it,” he said. “I think in years past, I really wanted to be a central midfielder, and that’s what I thought I was going to be in this league, but things change, and lineups change, and coaches change.” This week, all Evans asks of himself is that he does enough as a makeshift fullback to keep playing. “Right now, I’m playing that position,” he said, “and if I keep doing it the way that they want to, hopefully I’ll find myself still in the starting lineup.” NOTES
June 09, 2013
June 09, 2013
• Klinsmann’s updated injury report revealed enough gaps that the team may have trouble suiting up the maximum 23 players on Tuesday against Panama (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Midfielder Danny Williams has been released, Herculez Gomez will likely have to sit out at least one more game, and Jermaine Jones is scheduled for post-concussion testing Monday morning. Jones was in the press box to watch the Sounders take on the Whitecaps, and he said he was unconscious after colliding with a Jamaican player in an aerial challenge on Friday. However, he said he felt much better the day after the injury, despite the lengthy travel. • On Saturday, U.S. Soccer officials pegged ticket sales at around 35,000 for the Panama match. That number is significantly lower than the 53,679 that showed up at CenturyLink Field on Saturday. • The temporary grass field installed for matches this week did not receive rave reviews. While the Sounders players diplomatically said the surface could have been worse, the visiting Whitecaps were not as generous. Goalkeeper Brad Knighton, in particular, was not impressed. “The field was ridiculously terrible,” he said. “It’s heavy, it’s bumpy, the turf’s coming up. It’s a weird surface to play on, and anytime you put grass on top of turf, you’re going to get that.” Vancouver defender Andy O’Brien left Saturday’s match with a strained hamstring in which he said the temporary playing surface played a role. Liviu Bird is a freelance journalist based in Seattle. He is also American Soccer Now’s resident tactical expert. Follow him on Twitter.