Brad Evans started 2016 as the captain of the Seattle Sounders. He was their centerback at that point. By the end of the year he was either injured or a bench player. His large option was picked up. The team clearly sees him as a valuable member, but how they will use him is one of the greatest mysteries of 2017. Few Sounders grew to love Seattle as much as Evans has.
The ranking is based on several hundred Sounder at Heart readers’ votes. Realio rated every single MLS regular season and playoff game as well as the two CONCACAF Champions League matches. He did not rate USL or USOC play.
Brad Evans 2016
Playing almost entirely as a centerback in 2016, Evans contributed to the offense through possession passing and being the secondary target on set-pieces. His vision and long passing were effective at creating rapid transitions from defense to attack. About once a month he would make a foray into the attacking third during Seattle’s possessions, usually by dribbling through two lines of the opposing team. While this wrinkle did not result in goals, it was a reminder that his offensive skills are more varied than any other CB in the league. He’s also the best penalty kick taker in Sounders history.
Throughout their MLS history, there is not a Sounder who has had better positional awareness when trying to repossess the ball. Evans shuts down/intercepts the pass not through speed, but knowing how to place himself spacially better than his opponents. He can be beat on the dribble, and when beaten will go to ground at inopportune times. The greatest weakness in his defensive game is when defending a primary or secondary target on a set-piece, which was required when Seattle used Marshall as a floating defender.
There is a definite concern about injuries at this point in Evans’ career. Only three times has he started more than 75% of his team’s league games. Brad is no longer fast. He has good endurance when on the pitch. He is an excellent leaper. Evans will sacrifice his body for the team, both by tackling heavily and pushing through a minor injury to help ensure victory.
Brad Evans started off the season as a starting centerback, and brought a blend of speed and passing from the center of the defense that we haven’t seen a lot of in the past here. With the makeup of the backline a combination of skillsets, I thought Brad was a very good fit. His 15 appearances with a 6.27 average in the back for coach Sigi Schmid showed his skill as an above-average player. Unfortunately, when the new coach came in and Brad’s position became a fruit salad, his ratings dropped to a 5.88 average over 8 games for coach Schmetzer. Evans’ scores dropped even more in the playoffs, where he earned a 5.4 average while still playing in all but one game.
Even though Brad is an above average center back, he struggled as he was shuffled around to various positions and substitute situations when Roman Torres returned. Evans had multiple 8’s on the year as a defender, where he showed not only lock down defense, but the rare ability to jump-start the offense from the back via great vision and distribution. He, unfortunately, picked up a few injuries that limited his playing time and effectiveness late in the season from the bench. All of this led to a full-season score of right at the 6.0 MLS average from me, and I think that is an accurate representation of how he played overall. Throughout the entire season Evans was a vocal leader, and we all expected him bury his penalty kick, which he did with the vital first shot of the Cup Final Shootout.
I hope the team gives Evans a good run at right back, and I see him succeeding in the new season there if given the opportunity. Brad has a very strong tactical awareness and he knows when and how to join the attack from the back in a way that was severely lacking in 2016. He will need to mitigate some of the overall speed deficiency on the back line by taking smart angles and choosing his spots to advance wisely, so as to not leave a hole behind him in the corner. I also think his distribution should help avoid a reliance from the center backs on bypassing the midfield via blind clearances, which will allow the team to play its preferred possession style. I am excited to see how Evans works with Lodeiro as well, and envision these two tactically stout players working together well.
Best Case 2017:
Consistent time as the starting right back, a call to represent the United States in the Gold Cup (maybe even some World Cup Qualifiers) and the armband back.