Brad Evans has won an MLS Cup.
He has celebrated the victory with his team. He’s kissed the trophy. He’s got the ring. He’s already reached the summit of professional soccer in North America.
And none of that matters now.
As captain of Seattle Sounders FC, Evans’ top priority is leading the team – his team – over that final hurdle to a place it is so desperate to reach.
“We want that MLS Cup,” said Evans in a sit down with SoundersFC.com of the club’s goals. “That’ll always be something for us to strive for, whether it’s during my time or 10 years down the road. Sooner is better, obviously, but you never know when your next chance is going to come. It gives this club something to strive for.”
In 2008, his second season in the league and final year with Columbus Crew SC, Evans and his team defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-1 to win their first-ever MLS Cup. Coaching Evans and the rest of the Crew that day was Sigi Schmid.
Three days later, with Schmid having already signed on to coach the Sounders FC, Evans was selected by his only professional manager in the 2009 MLS Expansion Draft and his adventure with Seattle had begun. It has been an adventure that has defined his career.
Making over 150 appearances for the Rave Green since coming over from the Crew, the 30-year-old has done it on all areas of the pitch. Forward, midfield, defense – he’s worn multiple hats all in hope of bringing the same success he saw in Columbus to his current side in Seattle.
“It’s something we’ve been so close to,” Evans said of the Sounders quest for a first MLS Cup. “It’s one of those things that you look back on and say, ‘What if this bounced this way?’ We’re so close, and knowing that, it spurs the guys on.
“I don’t think a lot of teams can say that every year for the past seven years, they’ve been that close to making MLS Cup or making the Western Conference Finals. That says a lot about the club, and it also says a lot about how difficult that tournament is.”
Ever-present during those seven years has been Evans. He and teammates Osvaldo Alonso, Leo Gonzalez and Zach Scott are all that remains on the players’ side from the first season, a still-impressive core that has consistently evolved with each passing year.
Evans attributes this to the nature of the business and the team’s willingness to improve.
“We’ve tried to get better and better, and in order to get better you have to have some sort of change,” he said. “You try to keep a core group of guys together that have brought you success and consistency in the past, and that’s paid dividends for us. For myself, Ozzie, Zach and Leo, it’s provided consistency and guys who have bled for this team from day one.”
He’s certainly done just that, except now he’s also the heartbeat of the team as well.
Acting as the club’s third-ever full-time captain, Evans has been given the responsibility of leading the other 10 players on the pitch both with his play and voice, something he’s done this season from his new position of centerback.
Coaching him for the ninth straight season, Schmid is proud of the player Evans has become.
<blockquote><em><strong><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">“Brad has always been good about getting out there and getting after it. He wants to win and wants to compete all the time.”</span></strong></em></blockquote>
“He’s been a given...that he’s going to be out on the field somewhere," said Schmid of his club's ubiquitous captain. "A bit like Alonso. Leo as well and Zach Scott. Those guys are the mainstays and have carried the tradition of the Sounders a little bit. Brad has always been good about getting out there and getting after it. He wants to win and wants to compete all the time. He’s just been a real steady performer for us.”
His long-time teammate Lamar Neagle echoed Schmid’s feelings and stressed how invaluable Evans has been to the club, particular now as its captain.
“When you have a captain, I think they always have that leadership quality, no matter if they’re the official captain or not,” said Neagle. “I knew him when he was in the younger stage of his career, but he was already an MLS Cup champion and coming from a strong team. He just had that sense of confidence that he knew what kind of player he was. He has the intelligence, because he can play any position. His versatility is second to none. He can play anywhere on the field.
“It’s been a privilege to have him on the team. And for him to have been here since 2009, it speaks wonders, because he’s kind of the staple on the Sounders.”
Taking cues from the club’s two previous captains, Kasey Keller (2009-2011) and Mauro Rosales (2011-2013), Evans has led by example since he took the armband before the start of the 2014 season.
“Kasey was a guy who was my point man coming in,” said Evans of when he joined the team back in 2009. “At that time, I was still a young player. It was only year number three, and Kasey was a guy who had been through it all at the National Team and in top European leagues. And he was a top player. So knowing that, it was kind of just watching and emulating what he did. It was being tough at the right times, but also knowing that I’ve got to put my arm around guys in certain situations.
“Mauro was more of a leader on the field than off the field, so looking at those two guys was a little bit different. Every captain has a different way of operating, but I was just looking at those guys and still trying to be the person I am.”
Teaming up with Evans in the center of the Rave Green defense has been Chad Marshall, a player who played with Evans in Columbus at the beginning of his career.
<blockquote><em><strong><span style="line-height: 20.7999992370605px;">“It’s been a privilege to have him on the team. And for him to have been here since 2009, it speaks wonders.”</span></strong></em></blockquote>
Marshall, a 10-year MLS veteran and former captain of the Crew, has experienced Evans’ growth as a player but also as a leader first-hand since he came to Seattle at the beginning of last year.
He realizes that playing for Seattle comes with a certain level of expectation, but Evans has lived up to his captaincy billing admirably since they’ve been playing together.
“I think there’s always pressure on someone of his caliber,” Marshall said of his teammate Evans. “Sounders FC is a big club, and he’s the captain. He’s represented our National Team, so I think he always carries that pressure on him. He doesn’t show it, because he’s so composed and handles it so well. There’s pressure on every player, but being the captain of the biggest club in the United States, there comes huge pressure.”
Once a Columbus Crew SC player but now fully engrained in the Sounders culture, the versatile defender is central to its aspirations going forward. He knows what it means ‘To Be A Sounder’ because he’s been one since the very beginning.
But to Evans, it’s less about the individual and more about the sum of the parts…and that’s the main reason his time in the Emerald City has been so special.
“I think being a Sounder is having a lot of pride in what you do,” he said of playing for the Rave Green. “There’s a lot of things that are important, but when I think of being a Sounder, the first thing that comes to mind is the team itself. I take a lot of pride in being on this team for seven years. Growing up, I played for one club team and went to school for all four years at one college. And then the Expansion Draft was something out of my hands.
“Throughout my whole career, I’ve always been a one-team kind of guy, through ups and downs, not searching for the next best thing. And that’s meant a lot to me. It instills a lot of pride, especially being here from day one.”