Brad Evans is a veteran of the U.S. National Team’s January camps, but this year, there are a few new wrinkles for him. The Sounders FC midfielder has earned the starting right back role under U.S. Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, so rather than trying to work his way onto the field, Evans will be working to prove that he deserves to keep his place as the 2014 World Cup in Brazil approaches. The 28-year-old veteran of seven MLS seasons will be bringing along a teammate, though, in Sounders FC starting right back DeAndre Yedlin. There also will be a trip to Brazil, where Klinsmann and his team will get an early look at the training facility and hotel that it will utilize during the World Cup in June.
In the first part in a weekly series, Evans talked with SoundersFC.com about his return to January camp.
SoundersFC.com: What was your reaction getting called in to January camp? Does it feel any different than it did a year ago?
Evans: First and foremost, it’s always an honor to get called into these camps. I’ve learned that nothing is a given at this point. I was looking forward to this camp and I was hoping I’d get called in, but you never know until you see your name on the list. Now it’s just another good opportunity to step in and prove myself. There are some good outside backs that are coming into this camp that want to prove themselves as well and make a late push for this summer. The more competition there is, the better for the team for the next six months.
SoundersFC.com: With so many new names on the camp roster, what does that mean for this camp for you since they are all trying to prove themselves?
Evans: From day one, I think I’ve been trying to prove myself. I was sort of in the same situation when I was thrust into the right back position over the summer and I know what it’s like to come in and want to prove yourself. It’s my job now to make sure that I do whatever is possible to put my best foot forward and continue what I’ve done in the past year that’s put me in this position in the first place. There is good competition – there are guys winning MLS Cups and on winning teams in MLS. Anytime that happens, you’re probably going to get a look in these January camps. I just look at it as good competition and the better the competition is, it always makes you that much better of a player. There are some young guys too that I thought may have gotten the call-up last year, but it’s a great mix between some veterans and some young guys. When I think of this camp as opposed to years past, there are a lot of 27, 28 and 29 year olds and then there are a lot of young guys in this camp. They’re not only looking at this summer, but looking beyond and making sure that guys are integrated at a high level from the first time they get called in. It’s a good test overall and I’m definitely looking forward to it.
SoundersFC.com: We’ve talked in the past about the mix of guys and getting to know guys from other teams. The first game you play in MLS is going to be against Kansas City and they’ve got five guys in this camp. Are you going to be looking at those guys any differently over the next month?
Evans: Obviously First Kick is in the back of my mind, but right now these guys are my teammates. For the next month, that’s how I have to look at it. Right now, my focus is on the U.S. team and when the time comes at the beginning of February, I’ll turn my attention toward the Sounders. I want to put my full effort on this team before I start thinking about First Kick against Kansas City. Credit to them for winning MLS Cup – they have some of the best players in the league and that’s why they’re getting called into these camps. It’s for good reason and right now they’re my teammates. I’ve played against these guys for the past five, six or seven years. So nothing is a big surprise when it comes around to gameday. Maybe you pick up on little nuances, but right now the whole focus is on Monday morning, basically.
SoundersFC.com: What is the schedule like? What are you expecting out of the first week before you head down to Brazil?
Evans: I’m not really sure. This is the first time that we’ve ever taken a big trip in the middle. Usually, it’s just been three weeks at the StubHub Center and then you play a game. This will be a new experience, so it’s kind of an open book right now. I’m not really sure what to expect, but from what I gather I assume like years past it will be some fitness testing to be sure guys took care of their bodies over the break and did some maintenance and build some fitness. My goal this offseason was to build a little bit of strength and a little bit of fitness. Going into this first week, I would expect some testing for five or six days and then take off for Brazil. There, I don’t know what I’m stepping into and I don’t know that anybody does, to be honest. I’m definitely looking forward to it. I think it will be a great experience and it will be cool to say that we went to Brazil in January and hopefully we’re able to say in six months that we’re comfortable there in the environment, the hotel … whatever it may be, the little things that could help you out to get a good jump start on this summer.
SoundersFC.com: You’ve developed some relationships with these guys over the last few years. Is there anyone you’re looking forward to seeing at camp?
Evans: Of course, Omar (Gonzalez). Omar and I have developed a good strong friendship off the field and I think that’s something that carries over onto the field. I know that he’ll give me free rein to do what I can do and he’s always going to be there to cover me. If I make a mistake, I know he’s going to be there to pick me up and tell me to keep going. Also Matt Besler – with us three back there, we’re building good chemistry and as we’ve learned with the Sounders, good chemistry can bring you to the next level. When you have those relationships and consistency, you tend to find yourselves on the winning side of things. Benny Feilhaber was my roommate last year at January camp and he’s someone I’ve known since we were 18 years old. It’s always good to see him and our banter together … we get after some guys and it’s pretty fun. There are a lot of veteran guys – Kyle Beckerman and Nick Rimando – all great guys and it’s always fun to find out what everyone’s been up to. It’s always fun to see the smile on everyone’s faces because everyone is ready to work. It’s the most dedicated of the bunch and it’s always a great time.
SoundersFC.com: I’m sure one of the smiling faces is going to be DeAndre Yedlin. What kind of things can he expect in his first camp?
Evans: He tried to play it off like it’s not a big deal, but in reality, it’s a really big deal. When I was his age, I hadn’t even gotten my first call-up to the Under-20 National Team and he’s looking at his first January camp at such a young age and it’s pretty incredible. It’s just a great jumpstart to what he’s going to have in the future. He’s a good kid. Just being around him in the off-season – he’s been in every day I’ve been in and he’s killing the fitness part of it – he’s motivated. He wants to work. He wants to be at that next level. It’s going to be an interesting six months. You’ve seen late pushes before and now it’s my job and it’s going to be an interesting battle that will probably happen. I’ve got to make this position my own because there will be young guys that are going to come out of nowhere to prove themselves. They’re in this camp for a reason, but it’s my job to prove myself. I’ve been at the top level at this position before and I’ll let DeAndre get a little taste of it, but I’ll let him have 2018, hopefully.
Evans and Yedlin start camp in Carson, California, on Monday. The camp will then move to Brazil from January 13-25 before returning to California for a friendly against South Korea on February 1 at the StubHub Center.