TUKWILA, Wash. – For Seattle Sounders interim head coach Brian Schmetzer, the recent return of Panamanian center back Roman Torres to the starting lineup has multiple implications.
On one hand, the Sounders now boast arguably the most physically imposing, technically sound duo of central defenders in the league between Torres and Chad Marshall, a three-time MLS Defender of the Year.
But it also means a much-discussed but still-undetermined position change for captain Brad Evans, who has acted as the team’s starting center back since the start of last season and for much of 2016 while Torres rehabbed a torn ACL suffered last September.
“I have to find a new position [with Torres back],” Evans said after Seattle’s 4-2 loss to the Portland Timbers on Aug. 28. “It is what is. It’s not up to me at this point. The team’s got to make the playoffs, so wherever I fit in, I fit in.”
Evans moving positions would mean, by definition, that one of Seattle’s other regular starters would be headed to the bench. Weeks ago, the most obvious solution likely would have been shifting him back to his old role in the midfield in place of second-year midfielder Cristian Roldan.
But with a recent surge in form from Roldan suddenly making him increasingly difficult to sit, a move to right back – where Evans has played extensively for the US national team – in place of Tyrone Mears – could also be a possibility.
“I feel fine [playing right back],” Evans said. “In my mind, that’s ideally my most comfortable position.”
Schmetzer has declined to tip his hand as to exactly where he’ll play his 31-year-old captain down the stretch, but did say the lineup questions posed by Evans’ versatility qualify as a good problem to have as his team tries to claw back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
“I don’t take the term ‘utility guy’ as a detriment to Brad,” Schmetzer said. “He’s smart enough to play multiple positions. He’s athletic enough to play multiple positions. I can’t stress enough how much easier that makes my job when you have a player who is willing to do that for the team.
“In Brad’s case, the pundits can say ‘Brad doesn’t have a position.’ I don’t look at it that way. If I play Brad [anywhere on the field], he’ll do whatever it takes to help the team win. That, to me, speaks volumes about his character.”