The career path of Brad Evans is not typical of a player who has the potential to be a starter on a team with expectations of advancing out of the Group Stage in the World Cup.
But then, there's not a lot about Brad Evans that is typical. A man of multiple roles for Sounders FC and the U.S. National Team, he is as adaptable off the field as he is on it, using wit and humor to not only blend in with any group, but also to bring something new to the table.
That he is taking a different path to Brazil than many of his teammates at the pre-World Cup training camp, which starts Wednesday at Stanford University, is just fine for the 29-year-old.
"I think everybody's career takes different paths. To say that everybody is going to walk the same path isn't really fair. I'm just kind of riding that roller coaster at this point," Evans said. "There have been good times and bad times but I thought last year was the most significant so far, career-wise, and it's paid dividends over the last eight or nine months and I'm hoping it culminates with a spot on the World Cup team."
2013 was a pivotal year for Evans. Already an established leader entering his fifth season with Sounders FC, he entered January camp with the U.S. National Team hoping to impress Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann. However, he was a man without a position with the National Team. Battling among a deep core of central midfielders that already featured established regulars like Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, along with solid depth with players like Kyle Beckerman, Maurice Edu and Benny Feilhaber, Evans found himself on the fringes.
A move to right back late in the camp breathed new life into his international career. Over the course of the year he established himself as Klinsmann's favored option to take the role previously occupied by Steve Cherundolo.
His quick adaptation to a new role, even while remaining in the midfield with Sounders FC, came as no surprise to Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid. His coach in all eight of Evans' professional seasons, Schmid also coached Evans with the U.S. U-20 National Team in 2005, using the young UC-Irvine midfielder often as a center back to fill the needs of that particular squad.
"He has the ability, wherever you put him on the field, to tactically get the position right," Schmid said. "Even if he hasn't played a game at that position before, he gets the tactics of the position very quickly and he gets most of it right. Then with more time, the tactics of it improve."
Now just weeks away from Klinsmann announcing his 23-man squad that will go to Brazil for the World Cup in June, Evans enters another critical stage in his career.
Succeed in the next three matches in the Sendoff Series against Azerbaijan, Turkey and Nigeria and Evans could find himself not only on the plane to Brazil, but starting when the U.S. takes on Ghana in the first match in Group G on June 16.
"I think what sticks out in my mind in the three games leading up to the World Cup is if I'm playing right back that no goals come from my side, that there is good partnership being formed with the right winger and also the center back to my left, good movement of the ball and finding Michael (Bradley)," Evans said. "These are all things that stick out in my mind. But also finding myself in the attack and picking my moments to go forward."
Klinsmann has several options at right back among the 30-man camp roster, including multi-faceted defenders in Stoke City's Geoff Cameron and the Columbus Crew's Michael Parkhurst, German-born Nurnberg standout Timmy Chandler, and Evans' Sounders FC teammate DeAndre Yedlin.
With that in mind, Evans is going to camp this week with the same underdog mentality he has maintained throughout his career, particularly during any stint he has had with the national team.
"It's still going to be fighting for a roster spot. Anything can change at any minute," Evans said. "Mine has always been kind of a last-minute path and I think it will continue to be that way until that flight leaves from Jacksonville. It would be awesome to represent your country on the world's stage. Just to be there at that point isn't enough. It's trying to prove that you belong."
Evans, Yedlin and Clint Dempsey open camp with the national team on Wednesday. The U.S. will play its first match in the Sendoff Series on May 27 at San Francisco's Candlestick Park against Azerbaijan before meeting Turkey at Red Bull Arena and Nigeria at EverBank Field in Jacksonville, Florida.