Brad Evans is not only the captain of Sounders FC, his ability to play virtually every position makes him invaluable. But an injury leaves his availability in question entering Sunday’s home game against Dallas.
Sounders captain Brad Evans is a positional chameleon, a player able to adjust to just about every role on the field.
This season for Seattle, Evans has plugged holes from central defense to outside midfielder. He’s filled in for Osvaldo Alonso as a shield for the back line, and pushed forward as an attacking threat on the wing. When Leo Gonzalez was injured in the first half of Seattle’s playoff victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday, Evans shifted to left back for the first time this year.
“You put him up top, he might get more goals than me,” forward Chad Barrett joked Friday.
Seattle’s most capable replacement is also one of its most irreplaceable players — which is why the hamstring injury Evans suffered ahead of Sunday’s Western Conference final against FC Dallas at CenturyLink Field is such a significant concern.
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Evans’ comprehensive performance against the Galaxy helped underline his value.
“He leads by example,” Barrett said. “That’s why he is who he is and why we respect him so much on this team. That’s why he’s the captain.”
When Gonzalez first limped off the field in the 36th minute, it looked as if rookie Oniel Fisher would make his first career postseason appearance — at least until Evans sprinted to the sideline offering to push out wide. On came center back Zach Scott instead. And though Seattle’s old-timey back line creaked and groaned, it held the rest of the way.
“Zach has done wonders against L.A. in the past,” Evans said with a shrug after the game, “so you just play at left back and do what you can for the team.”
Despite being a right-footed player forced onto the left side, Evans looked like a natural. He was able to both hustle up the sideline to help out the attack and corral L.A.’s star goal-scorers.
“He’s a guy who, tactically, is pretty sound,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “As a result, he can slide into different positions. He’ll play that position like it should be played.”
Adds Barrett: “He’s just a very smart player. He knows how to play within his position, knows not to take unnecessary risks. That’s why Sigi is so comfortable putting him back there, because he knows when the pressure gets tough, he’s not going to buckle.”
Schmid’s only critique of Evans’ performance Wednesday was that his captain made one too many runs up the flank.
“Maybe then, he might not have pulled up at the end,” Schmid said. “But he played the position the way he knows how.”
Evans isn’t the only Sounder listed on the updated injury report. He, Alonso, Gonzalez, Nelson Valdez, Marco Pappa and Andreas Ivanschitz all are hobbling from one affliction or another.
Alonso would seem to be the most doubtful for Sunday, with Schmid clarifying that the midfielder has a groin injury, but none of the injured has been ruled out of the first leg of the conference semifinals.
“All of our injuries are day-to-day,” Schmid said. “At this point, when you’re in the playoffs, you can’t really look at timelines. Guys are going to say they’re ready to go or not ready to go.”
An educated guess, in order of how likely each is to play on Sunday: Ivanschitz, Pappa, Valdez, Evans, Gonzalez, Alonso.
• Because MLS reseeds following the knockout round, Seattle didn’t learn its conference semifinal opponent until the final kick of Portland and Kansas City’s epic 11-round shootout Thursday night at Providence Park.
And though top-seeded Dallas enters the postseason with far more momentum than second-seed Vancouver, to hear Schmid tell it, there wasn’t much difference between the opponents the Sounders ultimately drew.
“They’re both teams with similar traits,” Schmid said. “They both play a 4-2-3-1 and both rely on fast wingers. They both look to counterattack. … It just means we’ve got a further flight.”