Brad Evans scuffed a pass. Striking the ball with his left foot upfield in the general direction of an open Lamar Neagle (or a less open Obafemi Martins), he served it instead to Kelyn Rowe, who unleashed the New England Revolution's only threatening shot of the evening in Sunday's 3-0 Sounders victory. The mistake (along with a second careless pass that put Tyrone Mears in a difficult position) poorly represented Evans' overall performance in the opener - our first chance to see him at CB in a competitive game and evaluate his adjustment to the new role. I have previously demonstrated that plotting passing rates against defensive actions - as shown above - strongly discriminates players by on-field role. Sunday was only one game - a game that lacked the single Sounders player who impacts these statistics for the team most dramatically. We should expect the numbers to change over the course of the season... but for one evening, Brad Evans looked like a centerback (falling within 2 standard deviations of 2014 MLS CB passing and defense rates)... and looked like a Sounders centerback, in particular.
Evans' two rough passes belie the most intriguing aspect of his move to center back. Seattle's center backs in 2014 (in green) accounted for an exceptionally low share of the team's total passes. Tactically, this makes a great deal of sense - Osvaldo Alonso, Gonzalo Pineda, Marco Pappa, Clint Dempsey, and Obafemi Martins all have pass volumes well above the MLS average for their respective positions. A team with 5 attackers adept in possession and distribution will not overload its central defenders with that responsibility... but Evans, given his positional history, presents the team with another option. This may never lead to a dramatic change in team tactics, but the choice to distribute from CB may represent an important change for the Seattle offense. On Sunday, Seattle's CBs accounted for 16% of the team's passes - up from 12.8% average in 2014 - which would have placed the team second lowest in that metric. Baby steps.
*whoscored.com compilations of OPTA statistics were referenced in preparation of this post.