TUKWILA, Wash. — Seattle Sounders defender Brad Evans has not played for Seattle since returning from United States national team duty in early February, and his absence will continue as the regular season begins.
As first reported on Tuesday, Evans will miss five to seven weeks with a calf muscle strain.
“It’s a team game, we have plenty of good players,” said Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer on Tuesday. “We’ll miss him, but we’ll make do.”
The lone positional question surrounding the Sounders, at right fullback, now becomes simultaneously clearer and more convoluted. If Evans were healthy, he’d be the likely candidate to start in the season opener on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo (5:30 p.m. PT | Matchcenter), but his absence leaves Schmetzer with just two options.
Oniel Fisher would be the expected and preferred choice at right back, but he is recovering from a concussion and has gone through league protocol. Schmetzer said Fisher should be ready for Saturday, but his status may not be certain until closer to matchday.
That leaves offseason signing Gustav Svensson, a defensive midfielder by trade, as the likely candidate. The 30-year-old Swede started on the back line in the Sounders’ final preseason match against Columbus Crew SC last Saturday and fared well, prompting Schmetzer to say that Svensson may indeed get the nod again against the Dynamo.
“[Playing right back] was not really what I expected signing for the Sounders, but I’m happy to help,” Svensson said. “I’ve played full back, right back, a couple of times in my career, so that’s not a new position, but it’s been a while since I’ve played there. I’m happy to help if they need me to play there.”
The versatile Svensson played right center back in a 3-5-2 formation while in China, and as recently as a couple of years ago played as a fullback in a 4-4-2 formation. A veteran of the game, he knows the expectations of Schmetzer’s formation and, in turn, what his new coach expects of him.
“Right now [Svensson’s versatility] is valuable,” Schmetzer said. “Gustav would probably tell you or maybe even told you that he’d like to settle into a position, and we’ll work on that over the course of the season.
“But what I like is that he’s a team guy, and he would sacrifice parts of his game to help the team, and that’s the type of player you want as a coach.”