Between making a late push for a roster spot on the U.S. Men’s National Team and playing midfield for the Seattle Sounders, Brad Evans has days stressful and long, trying and tiring. It hasn’t been easy switching positions and playing right back for Jurgen Klinsmann, the USMNT coach whose training sessions are intense and lengthy. Tougher is acclimating with his MLS club after playing out-of-position in three World Cup qualifier matches.
“You have to learn to deal with it, and I think I’m still learning how to do that,” he said Thursday at Starfire Soccer Complex in Tukwila. “It’s all mental.”
Such is the strain associated on a rising MLS pro as he enters the prime of his career, within reach of becoming a mainstay on the international stage.
It’s why Evans, 28, spends time at home relaxing with Cato, his three-year-old golden retriever, when the pressure of playing in a contract year begins to mount.
“Besides my wife (Becky), he’s my best friend,” Evans said. “The best part about having a dog is going home and relaxing with him. It kind of takes your mind away if you have a crap day at practice.”
He hasn’t had many of them, nor has he performed modestly in international matches.
Playing June 8 under the fading sun in the final moments of the Cup qualifier at Independence Park, Evans scored in stoppage time to give the U.S. a 2-1 road win over Jamaica. The national media attention that followed thrust him into the position for which he worked his whole career. For the first time, he fielded the question every MLS player wants asked:
So what about playing in Europe?
“Right now I’m focused on being here, and hopefully we get something sorted out with the club,” he said. “I’d be more than happy to spend another three or four years here.”
In his fifth season in Seattle, Evans is a vocal leader in the Sounders locker room. In a 2-0 loss June 22 to Real Salt Lake, television cameras caught him calling a halftime huddle near midfield and shouting directions.
Teammates are just as apt to tout a side of Evans less recognized by his emerging group of supporters.
“There’s a couple jokers in the locker room and he’s certainly one of them,” Sounders defenseman Andy Rose said. “He sort of has a good way of understanding people and when the guys need to feel a little lighter.”
One of those supporters also happens to be Klinsmann.
“You make a team when something happens, or you convince a coach that you’re good,” Klinsmann said June 12. “He took that opportunity.”
It’s true that Evans wouldn’t be playing for USMNT had Timmy Chandler and Steve Cherundolo not suffered injuries.
Still, his productivity in the MLS (one goal and two assists in nine games) is nothing new.
Neither is the calm demeanor and sense of humor he developed while growing up in Phoenix before playing soccer at UC Irvine. In college, he spent his time away from the classroom at the beach. From that culture he adopted a credo he carried into his MLS career.
“Going to school in Irvine and living in Newport Beach, I always had that trucker’s mindset — that beach attitude where you throw the surfboard in the back,” he said.
In Seattle, such a mantra is realized only in the indy surf rock bands that frequent the bars and clubs in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood.
Evans, though, knows a few places where he can escape in his 2002 Toyota Tundra to avoid the scrutiny surrounding his 11th-hour run at a spot on the World Cup team.
“A little bit of paddle-boarding followed by hanging out in the backyard with the wife and a good dinner,” was how he described a perfect day.
Making the USMNT roster and playing in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil would make for a decent morning, afternoon or evening, too. Klinsmann won’t make that decision final until after the last qualifying match in October.
“It’s never too early to start thinking about it,” Evans said.
Or pondering whether Cato should join him if he makes it. He might like the beaches in Rio de Janeiro.