Brad Evans and Chad Marshall were close friends long before they teamed up in Seattle.
Dating back to U.S. National Team camps and their tenures in Columbus, the two Sounders FC veterans have been through a lot together on and off the pitch. But despite that history, Marshall and Evans were in an unfamiliar situation Sunday night when they played next to each other as the two central defenders on Seattle’s backline.
“I thought he was great,” Marshall said of Evans after the club’s 3-0 win over New England. “He commanded his area well, won his headers and communicated well. That’s where he’s so effective: in communicating and organizing people. He did a great job.”
Evans is not a complete stranger to the centerback position – he has played there for the National Team, and Head Coach Sigi Schmid says Evans used to drop back from the midfield during training in past years – but Sunday was his first test against MLS competition.
In front of a record crowd for a Sounders’ opening match, Evans seemed comfortable in helping his team keep the Revolution off the scoreboard.
“He’s got an unbelievable soccer IQ,” goalkeeper Stefan Frei said after match. “He’s a hardworking player, and I knew that he was going to make an easy transition there. I’m really proud of the guys. They made it an easy night for me.”
Evans’ night was made easier by playing next to one of the top centerbacks in the league. An 11-year MLS veteran, Marshall was named Defender of the Year in 2014.
“He knows exactly what he’s doing back there,” stated Evans, whom Schmid says will likely remain at centerback. “So for me, I don’t have to worry about what the guy next to me is doing. I know he’s making the right decision 99 percent of the time, and that gives me confidence to just focus on myself and how I see the game as a centerback.”
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Another player who could be a staple of this year’s backline is Tyrone Mears, who made his Sounders FC debut in Sunday’s victory. Along with Schmid, Frei was pleased with the new right back’s defensive contributions and his crossing ability from the wing.
“You can see that he’s got experience,” Frei said. “He knows when to go and when to stay. At the same time, he’s not afraid to go. So it’s not a big change from DeAndre [Yedlin], who we know liked to go forward. It’s good to have him on our side.”
Mears, who was named to the MLS Team of the Week, picked up an assist against the Revolution when his cross in the 41st minute found the head of Obafemi Martins for Seattle’s second goal. The sequence was one of numerous times the Englishman made his way down to New England’s endline to help in the attack.
“He picks and chooses his moments a little more of when to go forward, but when he picks and chooses the moments to go forward, it is generally effective,” Schmid said after the match. “Tonight was an example of that, and I think that’s what you’re going to see."
“I thought defensively he was solid, and I thought he also helped us in our attack in vital moments.”