Brad Evans was a busy guy last week. The Sounders FC midfielder was called up by the U.S. men’s national team for a midweek friendly, which involved traveling all the way to Bosnia for what was a thrilling 4-3 comeback win.
Evans then had to take three flights to join the Sounders in Houston, where he came on as a sub in the 3-1 road loss. He chatted about it, and the upcoming Portland game, after Tuesday’s practice.
Here is a transcript:
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(How was last week for you?) “It was tough, just the travel and everything. It makes things difficult, but overall, personally, it was a successful week. Obviously would’ve loved to end that trip with three points or at least a point on the road, but we just weren’t able to get the result.”
(What does this rivalry mean to the Sounders, MLS?) “It’s massive. I think it’s what defines MLS at this point. I think it’s this rivalry right here. It’s Portland vs. Seattle. Everybody will be watching. It’s a showcase game on Sunday. It’s obviously the biggest rivalry in MLS. It’s massive. For us, it’s only Tuesday, but you start to get the rumblings and its difficult not to get too excited too early and feel the butterflies, so you kind of want to step away a little bit and focus on practice and focus on things we have to do better facing a good team in Portland.”
(Do the games get chippy?) “No, I think it’s always been a pretty clean match. I don’t remember; I’m focused on the next game. … As we’ve said before, you can throw records out the window when it comes to derby games. It’s backs against the wall for each team. It’s Cascadia Cup on the line and it’s three points that we desperately need and that we want.”
(Does training feel different this week?) “Yeah, the fact played Saturday and we don’t play until Sunday, I think that training is a little bit different. Especially coming off a loss I think you find it a little bit more intense and there’s more emphasis… defending will be a key point this week and transition and obviously finishing our chances.”
(How do you handle being in a playoff race and World Cup qualifying?) “Yeah, for me, it’s just one day at a time. It’s a focus on staying healthy and right now the focus is on Sunday. That’s the way that I look at it. You think about it and you have the games in hand, and there are a bunch of ways you can spin in, but the bottom line is we need three points. All of our focus I think is turned on MLS play for those of us that are playing international soccer right now. For us, Sunday, that’s the only focus.”
(Is it tough knowing those games in hand could come without you, Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson?) “Yeah, that’s the reality of it and that puts more emphasis on myself when I am here, and if I do happen to get called in, putting forth a full effort and doing whatever I can to help this team win. That’s been my M.O. since Day 1: I just want to win games, whether I’m starting or whatever position I’m in. I just want to win games. So it puts a little more emphasis on my play and trying to help the team out as best I can. But we’ve done extremely well when guys have been absent. You’ve seen us gets results at home and even on the road — at Chivas/ I remember the game at Chivas that we got a result, home against Vancouver, so there have been a number of times where we’ve had some absences and guys have stepped up and filled in. I have full confidence in these guys, but personally you want to put in a full effort when you’re here.”
(Does it help for you having experience in the Open Cup, CCL and having to deal with multiple competitions?) “Yeah, I think so. I think the older that you get, you start to learn the ropes a little bit. That just becomes part of it. Like you said, you experience it with Open cup and Championship league. You have those duties, switching focus from one tournament to MLS play, so maybe that’s paid dividends and just realizing that the way you have to look at it is it’s just another game, whether that’s MLS, Open Cup, Champions League, national team. Once you start getting too far ahead and switching one mode is when you start to sort of see a decline and it starts to bite you in the rear end.”
(What do you remember from that Bosnia game?) “Yeah, from my standpoint, I think the first half was a 4-5-1 and we weren’t finding as much success being able to hold the ball up or impose ourselves on the other team. We weren’t finding too many balls over the top because it was just Jozy by himself. A good tactical switch at halftime to go 4-4-2 and put Eddie up top. We were able to challenge them a bit aerially, turn them around, win some free kicks, get some throw-ins, some corner kicks in the deep part of the field, and that paid dividends. Just a good tactical switch and Jozy took over the game at that point with three goals and an assist. From then on it made it easier on the defense for sure because we weren’t absorbing so much pressure. We were able to keep the ball in their offensive third. It paid dividends in the end, but credit the guys up top in finishing their chances. That’s the name of the game.”
(How big was that to get a win against a good team outside of your comfort zone?) “I think it’s huge. You’ve seen the strides that the team has made over the past two, three years being able to play on European soil and get results. 2-2 against Russia, obviously the Italy game was a massive result and then this one. Those are all things you put in the back of your mind as the team moves forward in saying we can get results away from home and play in difficult places to play in difficult conditions against good teams. Yeah, you always keep those in the back of your mind and hopefully that gives you confidence going forward.”
(And what did you make of your first experience playing with the USMNT on the road in Europe?) “Yeah, I didn’t even think about it to be honest. Just tried to stay even keeled about it and just told myself it’s another game, just keeping doing what I’m doing and limit the mistakes. I felt comfortable in the game to be honest.”