Sounders' Evans doesn't give utility role a second thought
TUKWILA, Wash. – In his heart, Brad Evans still sees himself as a central midfielder.
That’s the position he’s played well enough to make him a starter for most of his six MLS seasons, where he won a MLS Cup in 2008 and what got him called up to the US national team before the start of this season.
It’s also a position he rarely finds himself playing anymore with the Seattle Sounders. In the last week alone, Evans has spent significant time at right back, center back and left midfield. It has been more than two months since Evans played back-to-back games at his preferred position.
While being the soccer equivalent of a utility player is mostly thankless, Evans has excelled. He even translated it into his first-ever MLS Player of the Week honor following his two-goal performance against FC Dallas on Sunday.
“No one else in the league scored two goals, so I think it was automatic,” Evans said, only half-jokingly.
What isn’t funny is how well Evans has adapted to his constantly changing positions.
Despite a roller-coaster season in which he’s been pulled at halftime of a game for the first time in his career and watched his team bring in a Designated Player to replace him in the lineup, Evans is enjoying arguably his best campaign as a professional.
For the first time in at least several years, he’s avoided any major injuries and will likely set a new career high in minutes played, currently fourth on the team in that category. He’s also contributed four goals and four assists, with the vast majority of that production coming after Tiffert was signed and Evans started moving around.
“Sometimes, people underappreciate Brad,” said Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid, who has been Evans’ only pro coach dating back to their days in Columbus. “He’s older, so he’s a little more mature, but Brad has always been about winning. He wants to help the team win and that’s why he’ll play different positions.”
What Evans does, beyond switching positions, is not always easy to see.
“My position there is more being aware and covering for the guys that like to push forward,” Evans said of his philosophy when playing left mid. “For me, it’s just being aware of where they are at on the field. When I do get the ball, it’s just connecting my passes to the forwards.”
Evans has said that he’s modeled his game after players like Shalrie Joseph, a hard-nosed center mid that who is also dangerous in the attack. There’s at least a part of him that still seems to long for that, but he’s not letting those personal desires get in his way right now.
“I talked about at the end of the year that consistency that I wanted and I thought central mid was going to be my position,” he said. “Things happened and it turned out that wasn’t the case. I found myself in other positions. I’m just happy to be on the field and contribute wherever I can.”
Jeremiah Oshan covers the Seattle Sounders for MLSsoccer.com and SB Nation.