A year ago, Brad Evans could never have envisioned the way things would play out for him in 2013.
The changing tide in his professional life now has him staked into the starting lineup for the U.S. National Team and on a new contract with a Seattle side that has built itself around the triumvirate of Evans, U.S. captain Clint Dempsey and perennial All-Star Osvaldo Alonso.
“I definitely didn’t expect it. It’s probably been the craziest 12 months as far as the games and minutes played, travel to those games … it’s been crazy,” Evans said.
Evans started the year in January camp with the U.S. National Team and felt good about his conditioning heading into the training camp. He was beginning to become familiar with the faces in camp, which was comprised mostly of MLS players, with a few playing in Scandinavian countries mixed in as well. When the camp ended with a friendly against Canada, Evans started in the middle of midfield, as he had played through most of the camp. Then, at halftime, Klinsmann made a change, moving Evans to right back.
With regular starter Steve Cherundolo downed by an injury, Klinsmann was in need of a replacement and left no stone unturned in solidifying the position. Against Canada, Evans played well, but that did not earn him a start in the role yet. He was called in again for a pair of friendlies against Belgium and Germany and earned his first start at right back in what proved to be a pivotal match against Germany.
The U.S. won the match 4-3 and went on to win 12 straight matches. Evans started five of those matches, missing out only on the CONCACAF Gold Cup matches and two World Cup qualifiers while he recovered from a mild injury.
Amidst that streak, he had his own vital moment, scoring the game-winning stoppage-time goal against Jamaica on June 7 to give the Americans their first-ever win in Kingston.
“I can still feel what happened that night. I didn’t really realize at the time what that meant and to be a part of it and to see the reaction of the other guys and the fans is truly incredible,” Evans said. “The support I got carried me on more than anything.”
The resulting wave of momentum carried Evans to his biggest year as a professional. His travels have put him through over 70,000 air miles – or enough to span the globe at the equator nearly three times, playing 40 matches for club and country.
Even with all of his successes in MLS and as the starting right back for the U.S. National Team, Evans chose to stay in Seattle by signing a contract extension rather than pursuing potential opportunities abroad.
“There was a lot going on this summer and some great opportunities that had presented themselves, in terms of going overseas and playing or at least giving overseas a good shot,” said Evans after a career-defining year. “When we were young and we watched the big time players, they were all playing overseas. But at the same time, I’ve come to love the city of Seattle. I call it home now and I was more than happy when Seattle approached me about the new contract.”
In addition to the vote of confidence given by the new contract, Evans also took on more and more of a leadership role with Sounders FC throughout the season and took on the captain’s role late in the year, a role he will look to continue to hold in 2014.
“I’m ready to take the armband. In year’s past, guys have come to me because I have a good relationship with Sigi and I’m not afraid to express my opinion,” Evans said. “I hope that I wear the armband for the rest of my career. I have experience enough to wear the armband and not only worry about my own performance, but also take responsibility on the field and going in to talk with (General Manager Adrian Hanauer) and (Sporting Director Chris Henderson) and (Head Coach Sigi Schmid) and being able to express my opinion and being honest with those guys.”
Evans, Alonso and Dempsey met with Schmid after the season ended and the shift in dynamic of the club was almost instant. Within weeks of the end of the season, players had already shuffled in and out of the Seattle roster while Evans remains among the stalwarts, as he has for all of his five seasons in Seattle.
His physical preparation has already begun as he works toward his expected invitation to January camp with the U.S. National Team again. He has been working in the gym and put in miles on the road. Even while vacationing in Hawaii, he happened upon U.S. teammates Omar Gonzalez and Graham Zusi, who were coincidentally also on the same island, and the trio worked out together.
That type of camaraderie is one that Evans felt this year for the first time with the national team, describing himself as a fly on the wall in previous camps, coming in and out without expectation to be rooted in the team.
That changed dramatically with that goal in Jamaica.
“It’s a great feeling, it really is. It’s one that I always hoped to experience and the journey has been something I’ll never forget,” Evans said. “It’s a goal, but once those goals start to become a reality, that’s when you start to see a shift in the mentality.”
Even while, on paper, he appears to have his soccer life on much more solid ground than previous years, he’s not about to start patting himself on the back. It’s never been his style even while being third on Sounders FC’s all-time list for goals (17), assists (19), games (112) and starts (103) and that won’t change with his title, whether it be U.S. National Team right back or Sounders FC captain.
“Every moment now is still an opportunity,” Evans said. “Things happened at the right time this year, but there’s still so much work to be done.”