Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
WASHINGTON – Before Jurgen Klinsmann officially made Brad Evans a late addition on the U.S. Men’s National Team roster set to play five games this summer, the U.S. Men’s National Team head coach phoned Evans to let him know of the opportunity he had in front of him. Klinsmann recounted to Evans how he staked his claim with the German national team during his playing days, stepping in during the injury absences of others and impressing his head coach.
Evans will apparently now have his chance to do the same.
A day before the U.S. host Germany in the U.S. Soccer centennial match at what is expected to be a sold-out RFK Stadium, Evans trained with what looked to be the first team on Saturday. But Evans was not deployed in his customary central midfield role, instead being deployed out on the right side of the defense.
While Evans has played right back under Klinsmann before, he has not had many starts there in a U.S. jersey. That, however, is seemingly not stopping Klinsmann from starting Evans over the likes of Geoff Cameron and Michael Parkhurst at right back against Germany on Sunday.
“Just that awareness of mostly the balls being switched over my head, That’s the kind of thing I kind of look forward to tomorrow,” said Evans of what he learned from playing right back during the second half of a scoreless draw with Canada in January. “Obviously, playing against a team like Germany that can knock the ball and get behind in the final third, always looking over my shoulder and making sure that I defend first and make them play to the outside and then deal with crosses rather than combining through the middle and a clear shot on goal.
“Those are the kinds of things I think about moving forward but I also like to think of the offensive side of it. If I can get forward and help Graham (Zusi) out, if we can combine and sort of pin them back, maybe it takes a bit of a second thought on their left back from coming forward and attacking so much so that maybe Graham and I can get forward and pin them back. It’s a little game of cat and mouse but first of all, I’m still learning the position. It’s a great opportunity.”
Evans may still be adapting to playing as a right back, but he is not entirely unfamiliar with the position either. He spent some time there at the 2009 Gold Cup under then-head coach Bob Bradley and has also done so sporadically with the Seattle Sounders.
Those experiences, combined with the defense-first mentality that comes from playing as a holding midfielder, have Evans feeling comfortable with playing at right back.
“It’s obviously a much different position than center mid or right mid, so it’s just the awareness on the defensive side,” said Evans. “But you watch tape and you look at players’ tendencies and things like that but I like to think I’m a quick learner. I use the proponents that I have in the center midfield to kind of put those at right back, use that going forward but also being aware that I’m a defender first. That’s the most important thing.”
Evans most recently played for the U.S. in this past Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Belgium, but that appearance came as a substitute right midfielder. Evans’ last outing as a right back under Klinsmann came in the second half of January’s friendly with Canada, and he helped up well during the few instances that the lackluster Canadians pushed forward.
“At the right back position, I think Brad is a very smart player,” said Omar Gonzalez, who played next to Evans in that match against Canada. “He understands where to be and good positioning and he has a lot of energy, so he can run all day. He plays very well and he’s not scared to attack either, so that’s a good thing as a right back to do your defensive responsibilities but also help out on the attack. I think he can bring all these qualities.”
“(Our chemistry) is probably still developing but I’m very comfortable with him back there. It’s my job to make him as comfortable as possible. Just communicating to him as much as I can and getting him in the right spots. I think he’s going to do great.”
Evans could be intimidated by the task he apparently has in front of him. After all, Germany boasts plenty of attacking talent with the likes of Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose.
Evans isn’t, however. Instead, he is focused on playing well and proving to Klinsmann that he is ready to stake his claim with the U.S. first team, much in the same way Klinsmann did with Germany so many years ago.
“That’s everybody’s goal here and that’s what everybody is fighting for,” said Evans. “Each level that you get higher and higher, that gap becomes so much smaller and it’s one or two little intangibles that maybe put one guy in front of you and one guy on the bench. That’s why you’re here to play in these next games and help the team move forward.”