TUKWILA — There’s a decent chance that Brad Evans will be the Sounders’ starting right back when Seattle hosts Real Salt Lake this afternoon.
Having the versatile veteran play that position is a sound move for the Sounders, who will be without a couple of key defenders. However, the fact that Evans is available to the Sounders this weekend, and the reason they don’t have their usual right back, would combine to make it something of a cruel assignment for Evans.
“If I find myself at right back, I wouldn’t be surprised,” Evans said of his role this week. “Which is a little bitter sweet.”
Until last week, Evans hoped his next few games as a right back would be for the U.S. national team, ending with a trip to Brazil for the World Cup. And when the Sounders are at full strength, Evans usually plays in the midfield while DeAndre Yedlin plays right back. But despite putting in some strong performances with the national team in World Cup qualifying, Evans was cut last week as U.S. national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann trimmed his World Cup roster from 30 to 23. Yedlin, meanwhile, made the cut, hence Seattle needing help on its back line this weekend.
Getting so close to a first, and likely only World Cup — at age 29, this was likely Evans’ best chance at playing on one of the biggest stages in sports — only to have it taken away so close to achieving that goal would be hard for any athlete. But for Evans, the disappointing news was complicated by the fact that he and Yedlin were battling for a spot at the same position. While Evans has been a midfielder through his professional career, Klinsmann used him at right back, a position that has been unsettled for the national team, and with Evans playing well in qualifiers, it seemed he had a good shot at making the team, and perhaps even starting.
However, Yedlin’s quick rise with the Sounders caught Klinsmann’s attention as well, and the 20-year-old from Shoreline made his national team debut earlier this year. Even after Yedlin made the preliminary roster, he seemed like something of a long-shot to make the final cut, but in the end Klinsmann went with speed and potential over experience.
So while part of Evans is happy for Yedlin — who, it’s worth noting, has credited Evans with helping him adjust to play at the international level — he can’t help but also be a little confused by how things played out.
“Truthfully, I played that position with that team for a whole year, then we played two games with the national team, and he’s there right now,” Evans said. “That’s a little bit baffling, but at the same time, they saw something in him that they didn’t see in me.
“It’s a coach’s decision. It’s not just one person making those decisions, it’s a group. How the group comes together, maybe there’s a better fit there, maybe he comes in as a wide winger late in games to play the ball in behind and use his speed. He got good minutes Tuesday night and played well.
“It is what it is. I can’t change anybody’s decision, but first and foremost, I’m a fan of the team now. I’m always going to root on my teammates no matter what the situation is.”
For Evans, rooting for the team meant watching Tuesday’s friendly, the national team’s first game since last week’s cuts, and seeing Yedlin come in off the bench as a second-half sub.
“I watch the games and I root as a fan now,” Evans said. “Obviously it’s a tough pill to swallow, but things happen and you just move on.”
Evans isn’t looking for a pity party. He’s still a professional athlete pulling in a six-figure salary, but still, it’s not the easiest thing to get so close to the World Cup, only to get cut, then immediately have to shift his focus to club-team duties.
“He’s focused in the training, but it still takes a little bit of time,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “Tuesday night was probably the hardest one of all sitting there watching them play. It just takes time. Any big event like that in one’s life, whatever that may be, takes time to get through.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.