"I’m happy for the group, happy for the club," Evans said. "A lot of work has gone into it.”
Brad Evans stood toward the back of the makeshift podium, his street clothes a notable contrast to the green jerseys most of his teammates wore.
Osvaldo Alonso donned the captain’s armband for the second leg of the Western Conference finals series between the Sounders and Colorado Rapids. Alonso was the one with first dibs on lifting the cup, clutching the silver trophy with both hands as confetti twirled green and blue around him.
In any of the past few postseasons – heck, even now, if only he were healthy – that would have been Evans standing front and center.
Instead, one of Seattle’s longest-serving captains of its MLS era was a last-minute scratch from last Sunday’s match in Commerce City with a bum ankle. Even before the latest in a series of injuries that have dogged his campaign, Evans’ role had been diminished. He’s made an appearance in every Sounders playoff games but that one — all of which, though, came as a substitute.
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Replaced by Roman Torres in central defense just as the Sounders really started to take off, Evans found himself without a place in the starting XI once he finally healed up from a back injury suffered in late August. After making an honest go of it as a full-time defender, Evans has shifted back into the jack-of-all-trades utility role he has bemoaned for its lack of consistency.
Evans has watched Seattle’s run to its first MLS Cup mostly from the sidelines. His emotions have been, not bittersweet, exactly, but a distant cousin to it. At the same time, there is pride in the knowledge that he played a significant role in everything that led to this moment.
“Not bittersweet, but you want to be competing,” said Evans, who is probable for the Dec. 10 final in Toronto with that sprained ankle. “You want to be out there with the guys no matter what role you play, whether that’s a last-minute sub to kill the game or starting the game. Of course you want to be with the guys.
“But at the end of the day, I put in a lot of work to see us where we’re at now. To experience that with the guys day in and day out in training, no matter what my role has been, I’ve been just as happy as the next guy. I’m happy for the group, happy for the club. A lot of work has gone into it.”
Evans and fellow Sounders originals Alonso and Zach Scott stole a private moment amidst the Champaign-soaked celebrations in the visitors’ locker room on Sunday evening. The three longtime teammates reminisced about their winding road to this point, from the first U.S. Open Cup title in 2009 to the previous playoff disappointments.
“I was thinking about this the other day. It took us 300-something games to get to this point,” Evans said. “It’s a long road, no matter how you look at it. Sometimes it takes teams a year or two to get there. For some, it takes decades. … Would we have liked to have gotten there earlier? Yeah. But that’s sports.
“We’re lucky to experience it eight years into it. In the grand scheme of things, in sports, that’s not a long time to have to wait to make it to a final.”
Evans has long been one of the strongest voices in the Sounders’ locker room. Even when his minutes have started to dip, that hasn’t changed. He helped set the tone at the team’s weekly players’ only meeting on Wednesday morning at Starfire Sports, where the message was simple enough.
“Everybody was excited after the game, celebrating a bit,” Evans said. “But we had a team meeting today: The reality is that we haven’t accomplished anything yet. We still have lofty goals.
“Everything has just been so steady this year – wins, losses, big wins, big losses, coaching changes – everything has been very steady in the locker room. We haven’t even brought up what it’s like to play in MLS Cup, to win or to lose. … We’ve just enjoyed the ride.”