Brad Evans sometimes must play out of position for Sounders FC, which needs his versatility at several spots.
Brad Evans can play anywhere on the soccer field. And he nearly has this season for Sounders FC.
Center midfield. Right midfield. Right and left forward in the 4-3-3 formation. Most recently as a center forward against New York. And don’t forget he also played as a defender with the U.S. men’s national team in February.
“I think he’s the most versatile player we have,” said teammate Steve Zakuani. “I can see him almost anywhere on the pitch.”
But versatility can also be a curse.
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Evans, 24, is a center midfielder at heart. As a starter there at the beginning of the season, the fourth-year player said he wanted to establish himself as one of the best center midfielders in Major League Soccer — along with the likes of Kyle Beckerman in Real Salt Lake or Shalrie Joseph in New England.
Things went perfectly to start the year, as Evans scored the opening goal in a 2-0 win against Philadelphia in Week 1. Two games later, however, a poor defensive showing against Salt Lake bumped him from the starting lineup.
“A couple seconds don’t go your way, it kind of changes a lot,” said Evans looking back.
And the weeks rolled on, Seattle injuries piled up, especially at forward.
Enter the adaptable Evans, who played up front in college at UC Irvine. While fighting to earn his spot back at center midfield, Evans found a shortcut to the starting lineup up front.
The desire to get back on the field outweighed the attachment to his old position.
“I want to play,” Evans said, “so I’m going to do what they tell me do … Whether we’re in the midfield, playing out right or up top, I want to win.
“Wherever I’m playing, whatever they tell me to do, I’ll do.”
Coach Sigi Schmid admits Evans is best as a midfielder, an opinion he has held since he drafted the 6-foot-1 Phoenix native in 2007 with the Columbus Crew. Schmid called the current situation with Evans “difficult” as he weighed the new forward’s strengths and weaknesses.
“He’s decent in the air, he’s willing to pressure opposing defenders, which is important,” Schmid said.
“Now, does he have the touch or skill of, say, (forward Fredy) Montero? Could he have scored that kind of goal (against New York)? Probably not. But then again he’s the one who hit Montero with that pass, which shows his abilities in midfield.”
Evans hasn’t scored since the first game of the season, a drought of nearly two months.
That imbalance of work rate and technical skill in front of the goal has many Sounders FC fans divided on Evans, especially as a forward. But a simple thing like pressuring opposing defenders on the ball and making runs at full speed throughout the game can have an impact that fans don’t often see.
“When he’s running or working, the two opposing centerbacks can never rest,” Zakuani said. “And when a winger like myself gets the ball, or (Freddie) Ljungberg gets the ball, we’re usually one-on-one a lot more often.
“But if their defenders are free, they can double up and make it harder for us. It definitely helps us a lot, just him running.”
And for now Evans is content to make his teammates better, even at the expense of establishing himself at the position he loves.
• Sounders FC was honored as the 2010 Professional Sports Team of the Year by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily. Other nominees: Cleveland Cavaliers (NBA), New Orleans Saints (NFL), Philadelphia Phillies (MLB) and Washington Capitals (NHL).
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org