After nearly a month out of the starting lineup after he suffered a calf strain in a 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew on August 31, Brad Evans was back to his comfortable spot with Osvaldo Alonso in the middle of midfield at CenturyLink Field on Sunday. He scored the lone Seattle goal in a 1-1 draw with the league-leading New York Red Bulls, but to Evans, there is still plenty of work to be done entering the final month of the regular season.
“It always feels good coming off of a lengthy delay with injury and getting back out there in front of the home fans,” Evans said. “Personally, I’ve got to do much better in that game to help my team out. I didn’t think I had a good game by any means.”
On a Seattle team that is riding a seven-match unbeaten streak at 5-0-2 but has yet to truly find its rhythm, Evans’ reaction to his own performance may just have personified that of the club.
His own harshest critic, Evans completed 75.5-percent of his 49 passes on the night, but noted that those passes could have been a bit more ambitious, connecting the midfield to the forwards.
In the 35th minute, he had an opportunity to score when a Mauro Rosales cross was knocked clear by a New York defender, only to find it land at the feet of Evans. Charging on the ball 25 yards out, Evans hammered a shot for the post, but skipped it just wide.
In the 44th minute, it was his attempted cross that was whistled a handball to award Seattle a penalty kick, which Evans converted coolly.
Quietly, Evans has become Seattle’s most consistent penalty-taker, a sign of his calmness under pressure. Now in his fifth season with Sounders FC, Evans is 7-for-7 from the penalty spot in league play, including converting both penalties he has attempted this season.
His effort in the 45th minute showed why he has been so successful. New York goalkeeper Luis Robles even guessed correctly, diving to his left in an effort to make the stop only to find that the powered shot beat him inside the far post by the slightest fraction of a second.
“He’s done well with his penalties,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “Robles went the right way, but the ball was well-hit.”
Evans now has four goals and five assists in 21 matches this season, giving him 17 goals and 19 assists in his five seasons with Seattle. He is the type, though, that makes contributions that go far beyond his own goals and assists, so when the Seattle offense stagnated in the second half by comparison, and Sounders FC had to settle for a 1-1 draw after allowing a second-half equalizer, it would surely be Evans to have the most honest critique of the match.
“It was a good effort over 90 minutes, but we know that we can do better,” he said.
With Evans among the leaders on the team, those standards are never low, but they are just what the team needs to reach its goals.