Seattle Sounders' lineup shifts after Brad Evans suffers back injury

SAN JOSE — The Seattle Sounders drew 1-1 with the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, but they did so without captain Brad Evans after he stayed in Seattle while recovering from lower back pain suffered in training this week.

While the club does not expect the injury to be long term and Evans is expected back against the Vancouver Whitecaps next week, his absence was sorely felt at Avaya Stadium. Newly fit Roman Torres slotted into Evans’ center back role alongside Chad Marshall, but Cristian Roldan filled the slot at right midfield after thriving centrally in recent weeks.

And that was at least a small issue due to the health of Roldan, who had a last-minute fitness test before the match to see if an ankle injury he’s been nursing in practice all week was good enough to go.

“We limited myself in practice...but I feel good now,” Roldan said. “Obviously I’m achy, but it’s about that time where we need to win every game and I want to do everything possible for the team. I want to be an option.”

The end result though was a slightly knocked out-of-position winger on the right side, which showed in the way Seattle attacked in the opening half. The Sounders spent more than half their time on the ball attacking down the left wing with Andreas Ivanschitz and nearly none in the heart of the midfield. 

With a healthy Evans, not only would the team have had its seasoned leader, but also a versatile contributor who could have filled the space on the outside and allowed Roldan, Osvaldo Alonso and Nicolas Lodeiro to potentially control the central midfield as they’ve done in recent weeks.

But for the options afforded Schmetzer on Saturday night, Roldan put in the admirable shift the club needed on the road against a playoff-caliber team.

“Roldan on half a leg gave me 80-plus minutes,” Schmetzer said. “The kid took some Tylenol and went out on the field and did the best he could. I was proud of him.”

Schmetzer said the lineup changes for Saturday were predicated upon who he had available, but if Evans is able to return next week, the Sounders will have far more leeway in the way they line up.

“If Brad is healthy, he’ll play,” Schmetzer said. “Where he plays, we’ll have to see.”