Back in December when Sounders FC announced it would host a summer friendly against Tottenham Hotspur, Ray Evans turned to his former Sounders teammate and youth coaching compatriot Jimmy McAlister with a sense of pride.
The former Spurs defender has lived in the Tri-Cities area in Eastern Washington for the better part of the last 15 years, but had never been to a Sounders FC match. This, he thought, was the perfect opportunity.
“I think I might go to that game, Jim,” Evans recalls saying to McAlister now months later with the match on the horizon on Saturday at 1 pm at CenturyLink Field.
“It got my attention, that’s for sure,” said Evans, 64. “I’m really looking forward to it.”
Over the past few years, several players have made their way from London to the U.S. through an unwritten connection between Tottenham Hotspur and Major League Soccer.
Kasey Keller made the jump to Seattle in 2008 after playing with Spurs from 2001-2005. Robbie Keane and Jermaine Defoe both scored at will for Tottenham Hotspur before moving to the LA Galaxy and Toronto FC, respectively. Clint Dempsey famously left Spurs for Seattle last summer.
Before all of them, though, was Evans, who spent nine years at White Hart Lane from 1965-1974 and later came to Seattle to play with the Sounders in 1982.
“It’s kind of ironic that we all played for the same clubs. We seem to have honed in on the same clubs,” Evans said. “Obviously it was a different era, but the world is a much smaller place now.”
At the time, Seattle coach Alan Hinton went to watch Evans’ club, Stoke City, to scout a player that the Sounders sought. When it became clear that Stoke City wasn’t going to part with him, Hinton turned his attention toward the 32-year-old Evans.
Nearing the end of his time with Stoke, Evans convinced his wife to make a third trip to the U.S. after prior stops with the St. Louis Stars and California Surf. The couple had plans to open a pub in England and she wanted to stay and get started on what he imagined he would be doing when his playing days were over.
If things don’t work out in Seattle after one summer, he told her, we can come back and open a pub.
They ended up staying much longer than one summer.
Evans played two seasons with the Sounders, then three more with the Tacoma Stars in the Major Indoor Soccer League.
Now coaching at Three Rivers Soccer Club in Kennewick, Evans has stayed in Washington state for the last 32 years, coaching youth in the area like many other players who grew attached to the region after playing in the North American Soccer League.
Now with two of his former clubs set to clash in a friendly at CenturyLink Field, the time seemed right for Evans to make the drive across the mountains and take in a Sounders FC match. It will be a prideful moment for Evans and his family as those two important clubs in his life meet.
“My family is looking forward to it immensely,” he said. “It’s perfect, for me. I’m sure we will have a great day.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s friendly is scheduled for 1 pm PT, with a national television audience on ESPN2. Tickets are available at SoundersFC.com or by calling 1-877-MLS-GOAL.