SEATTLE — Over the course of his seven-year MLS career, Brad Evans has ingratiated himself as a sort of player’s player.
The midfielder tends to do a lot of the things that can go unnoticed by the casual observer, but teammates tend to appreciate. He works hard on defense, wins his share of midfield duels, plays wherever the coach asks and makes the connecting passes that keep an offense flowing. When called upon, he’s also proven to be reliable from the penalty spot (five-for-five in his career).
Against FC Dallas in a 4-2 Seattle win on Saturday, though, Evans showed off another side of his game: playmaker. His two-assist performance was the first time he had more than one in a game and continued a recent trend while he’s been playing in a wide position.
“Brad is always part of our offense just because his instincts are pretty good,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said following Saturday’s game. “If anything sometimes I try to rein him back a little bit because sometimes he likes to get forward too much or run too much and we need him back helping us to defend. ... He has done different things for us and he got two good assists for tonight, so I was very pleased with his game.”
While those runs may come with a cost, the benefits were obvious in this game. In addition to his two assists, Evans twice put himself in great scoring positions with strong off-the-ball runs. Although he failed to convert either chance, he thought they helped set up later chances.
“When we send statements from the beginning of the game, it shows we're here to play,” Evans said. “If I can make [FC Dallas left back Jair] Benítez think by making some good runs in behind, it takes away most of their game because they like to throw guys forward. It shows that when you have a two-way guy they can't cheat all the time because we're going to catch you and hopefully make you pay, and we should have a couple more times.”
Although Evans was perhaps a bit wasteful with his chances, he made up for it otherwise.
His first assist came with the Sounders nursing a 1-0 lead. Evans got the ball well behind the midfield stripe, took a couple touches and then sent in a perfectly weighted through ball that hit Lamar Neagle in stride and with enough space to round the goalkeeper.
He followed that up with a particularly unselfish assist late in the match. After getting to a rebound off a Eddie Johnson header, Evans found himself in space inside the penalty area. Instead of forcing a shot from a potentially difficult angle, he found Obafemi Martins all alone in front of goal for a relatively easy finish.
Playing like this, maybe having a less offensive-minded wide midfielder isn’t such a compromise, after all.
“We talked about that two-way player and it's paying dividends right now,” Evans said.