KANSAS CITY, Kan. – He's not a right back by trade, and he's got just five international starts to his name at his newfound position on the US national team backline.
But Brad Evans – first almost by default and now certainly by merit – finds him self with the words "first choice" in front of his name on the American depth chart.
Back in camp this week after missing matches against Costa Rica and Mexico, including the celebration surrounding the United States’ qualification for Brazil 2014, because of a calf injury, Evans is well aware he can’t afford to take anything for granted in an environment built around the mantra, "What have you done for me lately?"
“Being in the mix in the summer time and doing well then having a little bit of an injury delay obviously gives me something to play for,” Evans told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “At the end of the day, nobody’s spot is guaranteed. It’s a matter of who’s in form, who’s playing best, who’s healthy. … I think Jurgen [Klinsmann] will always remember us by our last performance, so that’s the attitude I have to have.”
Evans' last performance’s for the US came in a trio of Hexagonal wins against Jamaica, Panama and Honduras over an 11-day span in June. He got the month started by scoring the late winner against the Reggae Boyz, and finished it by putting himself in poll position on the right defensive flank.
But then he picked up a knock ahead of September’s crucial qualifiers, giving Michael Orozco, Fabian Johnson and Michael Parkhurst shots in Costa Rica and Columbus that none truly seized. As it stands, Evans remains first choice by virtue of what has been a successful positional re-education still in its early stages.
Of course, he also did all his World Cup qualifying work with US bunkmate Omar Gonzalez next to him in central defense. With Gonzalez back in Los Angeles, that certainly won’t be the case on Friday against Jamaica at Sporting Park (6:30 pm ET, ESPN, UniMas), where it’s likely Geoff Cameron, his partner against Bosnia-Herzegovina, will slot in next to him.
“You get comfortable with a player who was my roommate as well in the last camps. You get used to that position playing with somebody, especially your first time,” Evans said. “But you find other players. Everyone plays that position well. Whether that’s Geoff, [Matt] Besler or whoever it may be playing on the right-hand side, we’ve just got to buckle down.”
Buckle down is right. Understandably, Evans’ focus with the US remains on the defensive side of the ball.
Still in the process of adapting both to moving up a level and playing a position he doesn’t man at club level for Seattle, it’s clear he has the skill set to get forward and be an effective part of the attack, but Evans seems content to let DaMarcus Beasley do the bombing while he chooses his spots carefully and holds down the fort.
With the speed of the international game noticeably faster than what he copes with a club level as a central midfielder for the Sounders, it’s easy to “stick out like a sore thumb” for even the smallest mistake. And the last thing Evans wants to do with a place in Brazil on the line is stick out for the wrong reasons when things are going so well.
“It gives me confidence moving forward from here, but what got me here was putting my head down and working hard,” Evans said. “Any time you get away from that and get complacent, things tend to bite you from behind.
"My thought process is to come at it like I did a couple months ago when I was first kind of experiencing this role: Put in the hard work, do what I know how to do and, most importantly, defense first.”