On his first full day of training since returning from United States national team duty, Seattle Sounders captain Brad Evans lamented the USMNT's results in the last two matches but admitted, "with anything, there's ups and downs." Evans, whose international career kicked off in 2009, said that the USMNT is "very used to winning...right now is a rough patch."
"Overall, it wasn't the best experience," Evans said. "Personally, it's always good to wear the jersey and get that experience under your belt as an international. Another cap is always exciting and very cool, but at the end of the day it's up to us and the product that we put on the field."
Despite the poor results and accompanying public outcry, Evans said that both coach and players left camp feeling assured.
"Jurgen's message was, 'I'm not leaving when things aren't going well, I'm not going to leave this team because things aren't going my way or our way,'" Evans recounted. "That was the last message to the group, that he's going to continue to fight and he's going to continue to push with us. It was a positive message moving forward that I think resonated with the guys, that he's got our full backing even though the two results didn't go our way. I think moving forward, we're going to find another peak. That's the bottom line."
When asked about the apparently unplanned substitution of Fabian Johnson against Mexico (and subsequent dismissal of Johnson from the squad) that brought him onto the pitch in the 111th minute, Evans said he knew about as much as anyone else. He said that he had been warming up since about the 70th minute, not knowing when or if he'd be going into the match, or who he might be replacing. According to Evans, the players didn't even get a chance to talk to Johnson before he left camp, and that they only knew he was gone when he wasn't at the team's first practice in New York.
Evans said that the whole thing was "not the ideal situation," but something that the USMNT has moved past as they try to "regroup, and reassess where we're all at." As an international squad, Evans said that you can always look ahead, that there's always a game coming up to that needs to be focused on, even if you don't know if you'll be picked for the squad. In the USMNT's case, the next games come in the form of next month's first 2018 World Cup qualifying matches, which Evans says is "a different beast."
On whether or not he knew he'd be picked for those upcoming qualifiers, Evans said that he just wants to put his head down and focus on the Sounders next match against the Houston Dynamo. On the MLS Cup playoff race, Evans compares it to the plight that teams in every other soccer league in the world face: relegation.
"In the end, we're fighting essentially relegation in my mind, with that red line," Evans said. "I mean, we're not dropping down to another league, but we want to save ourselves the embarrassment of watching other teams in the playoffs."
Nevertheless, Evans is happy to see such an intense fight for playoff spots at this point in the season, that the scheduling worked out well for an entertainment purposes.
"It makes everything extremely competitive at this point, with very important intra-conference games," Evans said. "It's tough, but I think this is a taste of what it feels like to play overseas. For some of us, this is the first sort of, battle for the line. Makes it interesting, but we gotta go full bore this weekend. Otherwise, we leave ourselves with one game left to sneak into the playoffs.