Over the course of the last five months, Sounders FC midfielder Brad Evans has become a stalwart in a completely different role with the U.S. National Team. Known throughout his professional career for his versatility and willingness to tackle any challenge presented before him, Evans has taken on the role of right back with the national team and it just may prove to be his ticket to Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
He further placed his stamp on the position in the final two matches of World Cup qualifying last week, starting in matches against Jamaica and Panama as the U.S. finished the Hexagonal Round with two victories to finish atop the CONCACAF region. For Evans, it was another step forward in the role, though he is the first to admit that he still has plenty to learn.
“It was positive, but there are still some things that I need to work on, for sure,” said Evans, who rejoined Sounders FC on Thursday for its match on Saturday against FC Dallas. “You know going into games and certain situations what to expect. I’m much more comfortable, but still not where I need to be in my mind to progress at the next level at that point. There are still things to work on and I’ll keep moving forward.”
Evans provided one of the biggest highlights of the Hexagonal Round for the U.S. when he scored a stoppage-time winner against Jamaica on June 7 when he was making just his second start at right back.
He also bore witness to the most dramatic turnaround in the tournament on Tuesday when Panama went from qualifying for a playoff against New Zealand to eliminated in a few short minutes, seeing the crowd at Panama City’s Estadio Rommel Fernandez go from exuberance to anguish when Graham Zusi headed in an equalizing goal in stoppage time. Moments later, Aron Johannsson scored the game-winner and Panama was faced with the reality that it would have to wait another four years before earning its first ever bid in the World Cup.
“It was rocking. Then, all of a sudden, he scores that goal and the whole stadium goes silent. You kind of feel for them a little bit, but it’s sports and you play to win the game,” Evans said. “Every game you play, you want to get a result no matter what. There are implications for World Cup positions and that’s what guys are fighting for. Ultimately, it’s looking after yourself.”
Now, Evans returns his focus to helping Sounders FC qualify for the playoffs and reach its goals in the postseason.
In his fifth season in Seattle and seventh in MLS, Evans has four goals and five assists in 22 matches. On Saturday, he will be charged with helping fill the void left by Osvlado Alonso, who is serving a one-match suspension for a red card against the Portland Timbers last week.
“Our expectation is that Brad can step into the middle of midfield in the hole that Ozzie’s left because he’s not going to be out there. It’s important for him to help fill that hole,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said.
It’s just another test for Evans and if his resolve throughout the year has been any indication, he will charge right through the challenge.
Kickoff is scheduled for 11:30 am PT in the nationally televised match on NBC.