Brad Evans

Seattle Sounders: Play Hurt, Do Your Job, Win

The Seattle Sounders have the sparkle of fortune about them as they prepare to square off against Toronto FC in Saturday’s MLS Cup. As the national spotlight shines, ever so briefly, on MLS and the Sounders, the professional sportswriters are busy crafting narratives. Seattle as a team of destiny is one narrative with a lot of gravity, but as stories go, it is mostly fiction.

The key thing taking the shine off Seattle as “destined” is that key players are nursing knocks ahead of the final. Chief among these is Ozzie Alonso. For a player nicknamed “Honey Badger” and (briefly and notoriously) “Energizer Bunny,” Ozzie has had some kryptonite moments. The 2014 MLS Playoffs, the last time we entered the playoffs as destiny’s darling, the most glaring. After beating L.A. in a home-and-home, winning the Supporters’ Shield and bragging rights, Ozzie got hurt and couldn’t save us from an embarrassing early exit at the hands of the same L.A. squad. Ozzie is still listed as Questionable, but will undoubtedly play. He may not be 100%, but playing hurt is nothing new to this Seattle squad.

The Rave Green have been black and blue all season. Much has been made of how Seattle lucked into the final. National pundits are barking about how things magically clicked for us: a missed offsides vs SKC + Mauro Diaz and Tim Howard injuries = easiest path to MLS Cup ever, right? Wrong. Seattle has battled through adversity to be here at the precipice of heady, uncharted glory. And Schmetzer deserves heaps of credit for navigating these troubled waters.

A quick survey of the ill-fortune Schmetz has had to endure: first, Aaron Kovar was a regular starter and contributor over the first 2/3s of the season, but has barely been available for selection since August. Just a few games into the post-Sigi era, and right after a brace against Portland, superstar Clint Dempsey suffers possibly career-threatening heart issues. Then Captain Brad Evans gets hurt. Then Ivanschitz, who was really coming on and doing yeoman’s work out on the flank, goes down. Then Friberg joins the walking wounded and the carousel of lineups continued (Hell, Oneil Fisher had to replace Ozzie in our last game!). Though the lineup has been in flux, the formation has been a rock.

Schmetzer has solidified the 4-2-3-1 as THE Sounders identity. Luckily, with all the injuries, depth has been stellar for Seattle all season. One of the reasons the depth has been solid has been the 4-2-3-1 formation. The Sounders have been remade in President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey’s image: they are no longer a player-dependent team, but a system-dependent team. The loss of Dempsey would’ve crippled any other Sounders squad in recent memory. Now every player knows their job, and, when called upon, they don’t have to pretend to be someone else, they just have to do that job.

Take Brad Evans’s injury, for example. With the return to fitness of Roman Torres in early September, we could afford one of B-Rad’s customary trips to the trainers. It is easy to forget now, what with Torres stepping in and dominating, that Evan was the unquestioned started at CB for much of the season. He started 21 of our first 26 games, and mostly went the full 90. Then, boom, he gets injured and hasn’t started since. This could be crippling to another team (hello, Dallas). Brad’s gotten minutes in only 6 of Seattle’s 13 subsequent matches (including the playoffs), but hasn’t played more than 20 minutes, or centerback. He now comes on in the midfield and is yet another weapon at Schmetzer’s disposal.

There are many narratives surrounding Seattle as they prepare for their date with destiny: Nico saved the season, Seattle has nothing but dumb luck, the maturation of Jordan Morris, to name a few. But the one true story Seattle has told consistently since Schmetzer took over: next man up, play hurt, do your job, win.

Seattle Sounders Win a Wild West Showdown

The Seattle Sounders beat the Vancouver Whitecaps in a Wild West showdown last night at BC Place. The game was good, bad and ugly. The good: The Sounders, terribly undermanned, took all 3 points away. The bad: Captain Brad’s return from injury was marred by a stupid red card that will keep him out against Houston. The ugly: Olympic White kits.

sounders_goodbaduglyWith everything going right for Seattle, the first 25 minutes of last night’s game were terrifying. I had some serious early-2016 PTSD when Ivanschitz was a late game scratch (a little Oba-esque, as in “oh were you counting on selecting a player only to find him unavailable at the last second?”). Then Flacco got injured early (see the Sounders’ early injury ward woes), then Fisher pulled another boneheaded play (First Kick against SKC, ugh.) Then the zebras were giving away free PKs to the ‘Caps (#geigered).

But these are not the Sounders you remember. These are the Fightin’ Schmetzers, and no Nico, No Deuce, no problem. Seattle dug deep into its depth, and Schmetzer rolled out a formation that took advantage of it and we held on for a gritty win against an old foe. Now Seattle sits comfortably above the red line at 5th place.

Sounders fans don’t need to ask anymore if we’ll make the playoffs, but rather wonder how high we’ll seed. 4th place is looking very do-able, especially with the RSL matchup to close out the season. And 3rd place is even within our reach. If L.A. continues its horrible run of form, the Gals only have 2 wins in their last 12 games, and just 5 points in their last 5 games, and we take care of business at home, the #3 seed is ours. Both Seattle and L.A. would sit at 50 points, and we’d take the tiebreaker with more wins.

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but with the international break all we can do is hope and hype. Damn it feels good to be a Sounder.

Seattle Sounders Season Preview Part 2: Centerback

Seattle Sounders Season Preview Part 2: Defense

 

Much like yesterday’s exploration of goalkeepers, we’ll continue to explore the 2016 roster by mostly drilling into the depth and the change of guard. To continue the season preview, today we look at centerback.

It’s funny because here in Seattle we’ve been accustomed to some subpar centerback paly. We didn’t have Jeff Parke long enough, Djimi was old, Tyrone Marshall own-goaled us in his short tenure, only Ianni’s mullet was memorable and Hurtado… Jhon Kennedy Hurtado… when he was good, he was great. But 95% of the time he was the hottest garbage. Hurtado was one of the few Sounders that I absolutely wanted the door to hit on the way out.

I love the man, the myth, the legend, Zach Scott, but when a plucky but undersized scrapper is your best option year in and year out, you know you’ve had rough luck. But then for one brief moment last summer, Seattle finally had two centerbacks to reckon with. Towering Roman Torres lined up next to future hall of famer Chad Marshall and the Sounders had a wall. Then of course Torres popped his ACL going for a loose ball in only his fourth game in green, and the position was once again precarious.

Position: Centerback

TLDR: The starters are great, depth is a problem, and Roman Torres’s health is key.

With the recent release of wannabe Sounder Roberto Chen and the aforementioned injury to Torres, the only backups to current starters Brad Evans and Chad Marshall is Jimmy Ockford and the aging wonder Zach Scott.

The pride of Yardley, PA, Jimmy Ockford, has only one start for the boys in Rave Green. Last summer during The Drought, Ockford went the full 90 in that embarrassing 1-nil loss in Philly. Ockford didn’t exactly “earn” the start, but was rather another warm body in a lineup including Neagle up top, supported by Kovar, Pappa and Roldan, with Azira and Pineda in front of Fisher, Ockford, Scott and Remick. Woof. Ockford had a nice run with the Cosmos on loan in 2014, but how much he can realistically contribute is very much in question.

Scott could very well quote the black knight from Monty Python because he is not quite dead yet. He has retired and unretired maybe as many times as Brett Favre and the theory is that he may not even finish the season this year. Scott may have delayed hisreturn home to Haiku, HI, to play band-aid until Torres heals up.

Finally, Damion Lowe is maybe in the mix but he is currently on trial with Minnesota United of the USL. It doesn’t appear he’s in any gameday plans soon.

Unless the Sounders plan on bringing in a backup or a body, this is the depth they’ll have until big Roman returns to dominating the position. Torres is doing light training with the team and looking stoked to be a Sounder (who didn’t love that photo of him and the crew chilling in Tucson?). Torres is one of the biggest ifs going into 2016 for Seattle. IF Torres can return to his previous level of play this summer, we have a very real shot at MLS Cup.

Seattle Sounders vs CD Olimpia: Poetic Justice

The Seattle Sounders won a wild one last night against CD Olimpia, 2-1, in last-minute stoppage-time drama and controversy. Last night’s victory was a narrative as crafted by a master storyteller.

Poetically, it was mostly the boys of summer, the dirty eleven who limped through June and July losing 8 of 9, who took the pitch and the victory last night. A key victory in a CCL campaign that could’ve died a very premature death. For most of the night, Like June and July, the Sounders couldn’t buy a goal. Kovar hit the post (TWICE!), Pineda just skied a dangerous free kick, Neagle was a hair off sides and other juicy chances were left wanting.

And on top of that unfortunately familiar frustration was all the elements of farce. The game was so CONCACAF. Mercurial ref? Check. Wild flopping? Check? Dirty fouls? Check. Bench clearing melee? Check. And despite all of that, the Sounders showed their character and gritted out a victory. Sure “grit” and “character” are neo-Platonic bullcrap that can’t be quantified (and in 21st century tech-addicted America if it isn’t objective, it doesn’t exist), but they were clearly on display in Sodo.

Soccer is postmodern. The game leaves a lot of the big decisions up to a single referee: the amount of stoppage time, the severity of a foul, offsides, etc. With no instant replay, one official stands on the pitch and calls it how he, inevitably subjectively, sees it.

That is one thing I love about soccer. The human animal craves patterns and context and causality. But, like a Kurt Vonnegut novel, those things rarely exist in real life. Life is chaos and random and mostly meaningless. But sometimes life clicks like tumblers in a lock. And when it does, everything feels sooo right.

Standing in the cheap seats last night, I witnessed the most perfectly woven narrative I have ever seen contained in a sporting event. Sounders vs. Olimpia was storytelling at its best. The game had it all: good versus evil, rising action, redemption and catharsis all at once. The game was a Shakespearian comedy, having all the elements of tragedy, but with a happy ending.

Now it’s tempting to say “team of destiny,” but that really doesn’t mean anything. Unless you think Captain Brad Evans icing a cold-blooded penalty to take all 3 points mere days after again being demoted from a preferred position is poetry.

I sure as hell do.

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,

The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,

The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,

-Walt Whitman

 

Seattle Sounders at Vancouver Whitecaps Game Day

MLS did not schedule an early Saturday game as not to conflict with the EUFA Champions League final.I am an avowed European club soccer agnostic, but am actually tuned in to the match. Those Euro guys play okay. But the real soccer starts later today when your Seattle Sounders cross the border to continue their longstanding rivalry with the Vancouver Whitecaps.

I had written the Caps off this season. No Camilo, too much youth, and the uninspired decision to merely promote an assistant instead of bringing in a “known commodity” coach in Bob Bradley (who they conspicuously flirted with). Wow. Was I wrong. They are currently 4th in the West and at times have looked like world-beaters. Their attack is built around youth and fast, fast, fast. Darren Mattocks (currently injured), Kekutah Manneh (nightmares of his hat trick last season) and Erik Hurtado are speedsters extraordinaire. Couple that with the technical ability of Chilean international Pedro Morales and you have a helluva potent attack. Thankfully, Vancouver suffers a similar Achilles heel as Seattle in a leaky defense.

This game has the potential to be a barnburner. But I think Seattle will travel north looking to continue their clean sheet trend. I see Coach Sigi Schmid building a defense first lineup and starting Andy Rose for the injured Lamar Neagle in the midfield. Captain Brad Evans, burning for vindication,also starts. I don’t believe any of that lack of fitness crap, that is just smokescreens and mind games. He teams up with Gonzalo Pineda as Seattle protects the back and hunts the counter.

Bold Prediction: Vancouver wants to prove they belong. The Caps push and push but Seattle holds firm. The scores are back and forth, but Vancouver benefits from home form. The Cascadia Cup Rivalry continues with another draw, 2-2

Brad Evans: Classy in Surprising USMNT Cut

Most Seattle Sounders fans are already well aware that team captain and Mr. Sounder Brad Evans didn’t make the USMNT 23-man roster. Congratulations to both US team captain Clint Dempsey and DeAndre Yedlin on being selected by coach Jurgen Klinsmann to represent the Stars and Stripes this summer. I always suspected two Sounders would be in Brazil, but which two Sounders was quite the surprise. If you had imagined the different probabilities of which combination of Sounders would make the Brazil cut, it probably looked something like this:

Dempsey, Evans, Yedlin 10 %

Dempsey, Evans – 66%

Dempsey, Yedlin – 2.5%

Evans, Yedlin – .0001%

Dempsey – 25%

Evans – .01%

Yedlin – .0001%

You could’ve won big in Vegas if you predicted that Dempsey and Yedlin would be the ones representing Seattle on soccer’s biggest stage. Yedlin being selected is a surprise. I had a wee feeling that Klinsmann may include him just to blood him for 2018. But I never imagined him being selected over Evans.

This must be a major bummer to Captain Brad (though he joins august company in Landon Donovan). I’ve already espoused regret for both Obafemi Martins and Chad Marshall missing out on the World Cup, and am shocked to add Evans to that list. Though unlike Oba, Evans has never played in a World Cup. Oba and Marshall both knew for a while that they weren’t flying to Brazil. Evans’s surprising exclusion is more harsh because he only recently forced himself into the USMNT picture, through determination and stellar play, and was looking like a lock. To come so close, so rapidly and then to miss out, must be killer. Of course his tweet was also killer:

 

Thanks for being so classy in what must be a tough time. Come on back home and show Jurgen what he’s missing. You and Oba can both play your own World Cup with the Seattle Sounders. Hell, we may get some truly chip-on-the-shoulder inspired play out of Evans to complement the out-of-his-head Obafemi Martins. I am proud of Yedlin, and heart broken for Evans, but if Evans’s slight translates into, ohhh, a Supporter’s Shield or MLS Cup for the Sounders, Seattle will love him forever.

Devil's Club © 2015 Frontier Theme