This is becoming a regular January institution for Brad Evans.
Each year, he celebrates the holidays, prepares for the New Year, then gets an e-mail with an invitation to the US National Team January training camp.
Each year, though, it’s a welcome surprise amidst the typical inhabitants of his inbox.
“I’m used to just opening up my e-mail and finding junk mail,” Evans laughed. “Opening up the e-mail and seeing ‘US Soccer’ and that beginning blurb that says ‘Congratulations, you’ve made the selection,’ it’s always an honor.”
Evans and Sounders FC teammate Eddie Johnson are two of 21 MLS players represented in camp, joining former Sounder Jeff Parke as well as three players each from the Eastern Conference champion Houston Dynamo and Supporters’ Shield winning San Jose Earthquakes.
This year will be the third time in the last four years that he has participated in the annual camp. Yet, it is somehow different.
After going into his first camp without any knowledge of what to expect, Evans was invited last year as an injury replacement. Coming off of an ankle injury himself, Evans was unsure if he would join the team in camp. His plan was to ease into Sounders training camp to allowing him plenty of time for recovery on an ankle that he injured in the final playoff match against Real Salt Lake in 2011.
Instead, he went to Carson, California, and ended up starting off the season as strong as ever and went on to have a stellar year with the Sounders in 2012.
“That camp propelled me to the season I had last year. It gave me a full preseason of fitness and strengthening and pushed me into the Sounders camp and lead to a healthy season,” he said. “Anytime you get called into a camp, it gives you confidence and we all know that confidence is so key in this game. When you have a successful season, it gives you confidence going forward. But what is done in the past is done, so you have to look forward, so getting a couple of weeks going into it will give me even more confidence.”
Last season, he had four goals and four assists in 29 league matches – seven goals and five assists in 40 matches across all competitions. On top of that, he showed versatility for the club in several desperate situations. He made the move to the left side of midfield after the acquisition of Christian Tiffert and scored three of his four goals on the season while starting on the left. He also twice made the move to right back and even moved to center back when injuries and a red card thinned the back line in a critical late-season match against Real Salt Lake.
With 2014 World Cup qualifying matches just around the corner and Gold Cup this summer, impressing head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is at the forefront of the minds of all 25 players in camp. However, making it into the full squad that Klinsmann will field in the most critical matches is no easy task, but one that can only be achieved by good showings in camps like this one.
“The ultimate goal is to do well in training and if you get your shot in the game, do the best you can because you never know what can happen,” Evans said. “The team is so deep, so to break into the squad is very difficult.”
The US will train in Carson, California, beginning on Tuesday, then face Canada in a friendly at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium on January 29 ahead of their qualifying match against Honduras in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, on February 6. The Sounders open training camp on January 21.