TUSCON, Ariz. – In the Sounders FC’s first four seasons in Major League Soccer, Brad Evans has been a constant.
Now, the last remaining player from Seattle’s expansion draft class is a more important cog in head coach Sigi Schmid’s squad than he has ever been and now that he is back from camp with the US National Team and fully entrenched in Seattle’s preseason camp, he is able to play that leadership role.
On Wednesday, he played his first preseason game of the 2013 season, converting a penalty in a 2-0 win over the New England Revolution at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium. But his impact was much more prevalent over the 66 minutes he played than that first goal to put the Sounders up in the 27th minute. One of the more vocal players on the team, Evans acted as a calming influence in the midfield of a hectic match. Paired with Osvaldo Alonso – also making his first preseason appearance for the Sounders – Evans looks to continue to lead with his workrate and vocal presence.
“He’s one of the guys who talks within the game, so it’s important,” Schmid said. “Having Ozzie back and healthy again makes a difference as well for us. It’s just a matter of them getting some game-time together and playing and seeing how it all works again.”
Evans is in his fifth season with the Sounders and seventh in MLS. He has 18 goals and 16 assists in 118 career MLS appearances and has fought his way into the picture for the US National Team under Jurgen Klinsmann, earning a spot on the roster for a World Cup qualifying match against Honduras last week after putting in a solid effort in the annual January camp.
Back with the Sounders for less than a week, the leadership role is one that Evans embraces, though not without asking something of his teammates as well.
“Hopefully what I can bring is a little bit of experience for the young guys that are playing in the midfield, maybe some direction and a few words here and there,” he said. “I can push them and hopefully they can push me as well.”
Through the first half of the win over New England, the Sounders used a mostly first-team group, however for many players that was their first opportunity to play together this season. Evans, Eddie Johnson and Adam Johansson were all away for national team duty and several other players out with illness or injury for Seattle’s first preseason game against the Portland Timbers last week, yet the Sounders were still a relatively cohesive group on the field on Wednesday.
“That’s a testament to what the guys have been doing the last six weeks,” Evans said. “I think everybody has established where they’re going to play and the coaches have established how we’re going to play. Now it’s implementing it on the field. When people get their chance, they’ve got to get the job done.”
The Sounders are just four days into their 13-day preseason trip to Tucson and still have four more matches on the schedule, resuming Saturday against Real Salt Lake, who finished with a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday after jumping out to a 2-0 lead in the first three minutes of the match.
Saturday's kickoff is slated for 3 pm PT with a live stream of the match on SoundersFC.com.