TUKWILA, Wash. – Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid has said it time and again that no one else on the Sounders roster can provide what Brad Evans does: a goal-scoring threat in the middle of the field.
But with defensive midfielder Osvaldo Alonso locked in the starting lineup and Steve Zakuani untouchable on the left side, is Evans himself a lock to earn that second spot in central midfield?
Although recent results show that the veteran coach plans to stay loyal to the 25-year-old midfielder, Schmid wouldn’t go so far as to guarantee Evans’ spot in the lineup.
"Obviously we've got options this year,” Schmid said at training on Wednesday. “Erik Friberg's done well, and he can play inside there. [Mauro] Rosales can possibly play inside there. There are different options – a little bit depends on the opponent, a little bit depends on the form of the players.”
Finally healthy after missing much of 2010 with knee injuries, Evans has turned in some strong performances to start the season, including 90-minute run-outs against San Jose and Chicago. In three starts, Evans has played 251 minutes and added one goal, which came against the Quakes.
Evans also offers the intangibles. Schmid credits Evans with being able to win balls in the air with regularity and helping the team on set pieces on both ends of the field. He’s also adding maturity.
One of the specific things he has been focusing on with Schmid is timing his runs forward.
“It’s a case of where the late runs are great, but they have to be made at the right time,” Evans said recently. “There’s no point in making seven late runs into the box if only two of them are hard and good, solid runs.”
[inline_node:330559]For all the good he provides, Evans can be frustrating to his coach at times. He has a knack for turnovers at inopportune moments. Against San Jose, a misplaced pass off Evans’ foot led to a counterattack and a goal.
Schmid explains it away as a natural downside of Evans’ attacking ambitions.
"Sometimes Brad will try something and give the ball away, everybody does that,” Schmid said in January. “He doesn't have the same flair as, for example, Zakuani or Montero, but what he provides for us in the midfield is he's that link. He's that guy that gets into the box late. He's that guy that becomes another scoring threat for us."
Looking ahead, it looks as though the second spot in central midfield belongs to the California native as long as he can stay healthy. Friberg, who told MLSsoccer.com he prefers to play in the middle, has played all across the midfield but looks like we will battle Rosales for the right midfield role. Alvaro Fernandez, who played in the middle at time in 2011, looks to be out of the pecking order.
For the time being, Schmid is casting his lot with Evans as the team’s fifth attacking threat alongside the wingers and forwards.