Brad Evans talks World Cup chances ahead of USMNT vs. South Korea friendly
- Updated: February 1, 2014
LOS ANGELES — Brad Evans still can’t believe this is happening to him.
Sure, he knows he’s worked hard enough and played well enough to be in this position — the starting right back on the U.S. Men’s National Team.
“But it’s definitely strange; definitely the past year has been the most memorable in my soccer career, for sure,” Evans, a Seattle Sounders FC midfielder, told ODFCnews.com in a recent exclusive interview. “I didn’t expect any of that to happen in the past year.”
In the past year, Evans has gone from a fringe national team player, down the list of a very deep midfielder pool, to being placed as an emergency starter at right back, playing well, scoring an important World Cup Qualifying goal and becoming Jurgen Klinsmann’s preferred right back with just four months left before the biggest tournament in the world. (The 2014 World Cup in Brazil, if you needed some help.)
“I was just along for the ride,” Evans, who will likely start in today’s international friendly between the U.S. and South Korea at a sold-out StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., said of his appearances in the past January national team camps. “But then you get more comfortable. The more camps you get into, the more comfortable you get with the surroundings and with the best players. Maybe you’re not one of the top players, but you get the job done. And at the end of the day, it’s about getting your job done and doing what you need to do on the field.
“It’s definitely exciting but at the same time, there are tons of work to be done. Even in this training that we just had, I’m still looking back and saying what can I do better; can I be more calm in this situation to help my team out. Those are things the coaches are still going to look at. It’s a long way from the finished product. I’m a long way from where I ultimately want to be. Every day, it’s about putting in the work, staying healthy and putting a good positive attitude toward working and toward the summer. If it works out this summer and I go, it’ll definitely be something that I’ll remember forever. If not then, it’ll be something I’ll remember — this ride that I was on the past year and a half.”
Anybody would be happy with Evans’ past year’s accomplishments on the national team. Evans definitely is. “Extremely” was his exact word choice. But don’t mistake happiness for satisfaction.
“I do have goals for myself,” he said. “It’s not to say that if it doesn’t work out (not being chosen on the World Cup roster), I’ll still be happy. Obviously, if it doesn’t work out, I’m going to be pissed in some way or another. But I don’t want to look back and say could I have done this better and second guess what I did in certain situations. I got to be ready to move forward at any time.”
What has been remarkable is Evans’ acclimation to his spot at outside back. While he has played a number of positions during his MLS career, he is a natural midfielder.
“I think it’s being a student of the game,” Evans said. “It’s watching soccer. When I play, I watch other players play. When I’m in practice, I’m watching other players and their tendencies at each position. I think that makes every player better on the field. I think it’s a credit to knowing soccer, knowing the tactics of soccer, knowing what each player should do. Juggling that hasn’t been a problem.
“Earlier in my career, I think, mentally as a younger player trying to establish myself in MLS, I think I would have been more frustrated being switched around in positions. I’ve even told coaches that. At the end of 2007 or 2008, I told Sigi Schmid (when both were with the Columbus Crew) that I want to play one position. Now, I’m 28 years old, and it’s ‘all right, put me anywhere and I’ll try to get the job done.’ It’s not everybody’s career progression or everybody’s niche, but that’s the kind of niche I found in MLS; playing multiple positions. I’ve made a career out of that. I’m going to roll with it and try to get better every day.”
Not many would have guessed that Evans would be able to hold his own at right back against international competition. That he wasn’t an international-caliber midfielder, let alone a defender. When most people predict or fill out their U.S. starting lineup for this summer’s World Cup, Evans at right back isn’t given a thought; no matter how well he’s played at that position the past year and a half.
“The only opinions that matter to me are my family’s and my coaches’ and my fellow teammates,” Evans said. “And I think I’ve done a good job of playing that role and when I look back, I’ve been successful at that position in the past year. Whatever people want to say, if someone plays in Europe and that makes them a step better, then that’s their opinion. It is what it is. Honestly, I don’t care.
“At the end of the day, if I’m on the team and I’m playing, then that’s great for me. I’m not going to look back and point fingers, laugh and tell people they were wrong. That’s not why I play soccer. I play soccer for enjoyment and I play soccer to win games. If I’m playing right back, I’m shutting down my opponent and making sure they don’t score or have any assists. And I think I’ve done a good job of that so far.”