He had only been back with Sounders FC for five days, but Brad Evans could already tell that things were different.
The seven-year MLS veteran had been a staple in the Seattle lineup for five seasons, but noticed an immense change in the locker room when he returned from U.S. National Team camp last week. It wasn’t just the new players that peppered the roster or the old teammates that were now donning new uniforms with other teams.
It was a new attitude altogether.
“It’s a bunch of new faces, but some familiar faces from throughout the league that we’ve brought in. It’s a better locker room right now than it was in the past,” Evans said. “That doesn’t always guarantee results, but it might push us through those tough times throughout the season. It’s a little bit different attitude around here and we hope that that translates into good results.”
Those changes have brought in vast experience in MLS trenches with the additions of forwards Kenny Cooper, Chad Barrett and Tristan Bowen, midfielder Marco Pappa, defenders Chad Marshall and Jalil Anibaba and goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
In Cooper and Barrett, Seattle added 116 goals in 399 combine matches between the two of them. Bowen already has five years under his belt at just 23 years old. Pappa is a prominent figure for Guatemala’s National Team and is a two-time MLS All-Star. Marshall is a two-time MLS Defender of the Year with championship experience with the Columbus Crew. Anibaba is a rising defensive talent who has shown to be of starting caliber and Frei was a three-year starter himself.
All seven of those players figure to play prominent roles for Seattle in 2014 and all seven are under the age of 30.
And they all bring a different sort of mentality to the team as it prepares to face defending MLS Cup champions Sporting Kansas City in the regular season opener on March 8 at CenturyLink Field.
“Everybody’s just coming out and working hard. There’s good spirit in practice. There’s good intensity. That’s the important thing from the team standpoint,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “I think the level of competition has been raised on a daily basis because of the personalities we have.”
Some of that is to be expected after a disappointing conclusion to the 2013 season that saw Seattle win just once in the final 10 matches. Bringing in new players who are hungry to prove wrong the teams that let them go has added fuel to that fire in training. Yet the edge on the field hasn’t detracted from the harmony in the locker room.
“I think that’s a little bit a case of the returning guys are disappointed with the final result last year and how the season ended, so they’re motivated,” Schmid said. “The new guys are motivated because they’re new. Some are happy with a change of scenery themselves. That helps their motivation. Then you have young players that are trying to make a true name for themselves in the league and so they raise the level of competition.”
Even Evans readily admits that the true character of the team won’t be revealed until the team goes through some struggles, but with the players in camp, he is confident that the right pieces are in place to keep the team moving in a positive direction.
Sounders FC continues to train in Seattle until Wednesday, when it departs for the final stage of preseason with a 12-day stay in Charleston, SC, for the Carolina Challenge Cup, facing the Charleston Battery, Houston Dynamo and D.C. United.