The team decided to shift Evans back from the midfield in lieu of bringing in an expensive long-term replacement for the aging Scott from outside the club. Evans agreed, and both sides knew there would be some rough spots along the way.
Sounders defender Zach Scott has long since learned his lesson about watching tape after particularly bad nights at the CenturyLink office.
“No, I don’t watch the film at all,” said Scott, a 14-year veteran. “When something like that happens and you know that we didn’t have the best game as a team, you toss it out the window.
“You don’t last very long in this league if you’re stewing on every mistake.”
Newly converted defender Brad Evans is following his teammate’s lead. Evans was at least partially at fault in all three of the goals Seattle surrendered in its 3-2 loss to San Jose on Saturday night, and he doesn’t need to see the cinematic proof.
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“It’s not flushing it, but I don’t have to watch video to know exactly what happened,” Evans said. “In my mind, I’ve replayed it enough times to know that those mistakes are uncharacteristic.”
This week, both Seattle coach Sigi Schmid and general manager Garth Lagerwey have reiterated their support of Evans’ positional change.
The team decided to shift Evans back from the midfield in lieu of bringing in an expensive long-term replacement for the aging Scott from outside the club. Evans agreed — the only condition was that he stop being moved all over the field as the team’s one-man Swiss army knife — and both sides knew there would be some rough spots along the way.
Lagerwey said the front office was willing to wait at least three months before making a final evaluation, and Schmid added that Saturday’s performance changed nothing about the timeline.
“When someone is learning a brand new position after 10 years of playing,” Lagerwey said, “I’m perfectly willing to give him more than one game and more than one mistake to prove whether or not he can play there.”
Schmid doesn’t have to look far for positive reinforcement about the value of staying the course. Take goalkeeper Stefan Frei’s first occasionally maddening first year in Seattle after two seasons loaded with injuries and low on playing time in Toronto.
A few high-profile miscues in the early months of 2014 tested the patience of those in the stands but not those on the sideline. Goalkeeper coach Tom Dutra stuck by his man.
“Especially when you’re in a new situation and your confidence is a little bit low, that’s where you start rebuilding your confidence, when you have people around you telling you, ‘It’s OK to make a mistake. We believe in you. You’re here for a reason,’ ” Frei said.
“Making those mistakes were very important to me, because it showed me that I had people around me that really believe in me. From that point on, I could keep on plucking along and getting better every day.”
Part of Evans’ transition is realizing what goalkeepers such as Frei learn early: At the back, every mistake is amplified.
In the midfield, Evans’ decision to step to the wrong man on San Jose’s give-and-go passing move would be swept away by the last line of defense. Now, Evans is the last line of defense — something Innocent Emeghara made painfully clear when he turned the new defender inside out, sent him sprawling to the turf and curled in the Earthquakes’ dagger third goal.
“Back there, I really haven’t seen those things before,” Evans said. “When I step into the midfield, I feel comfortable. I’ve seen it all before. It’s all repetition. When I drop back, everything’s different.”
When an athlete talks about the game “slowing down,” this is what he or she means. It’s the second nature that comes from seeing the same situations over and over, the split-second decisions that gradually become instinctual.
Evans’ lack of experience as a starting defender was most evident on San Jose’s second goal. Micheal Azira played a simple headed back pass toward a wide-open Evans, and it took an unlucky bounce off the turf to catch the captain off guard.
On Thursday, Evans freely admitted that he should’ve just cleared the ball to the safety, but in the moment his instincts failed him. Evans froze, caught the ball too high on his chest and meekly headed it into Chris Wondolowski’s path for a simple finish.
“If I’m a coach and mistakes continue to be made and continue to happen, then a change has to be made,” Evans said. “I’m well aware of that.
“But I’m willing to push forward and will push forward to get better at the position.”