BRIAN SCIARETTA - Sunday, June 2, 2013
As the U.S. team posted a 4-3 win over Germany in its final friendly before a trio of World Cup qualifiers, one of the tream's most important performances game from Brad Evans.
When U.S head coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced his roster for the upcoming series of games, right back appeared to be the team's most glaring weakness with Steve Chernundolo and Timmy Chandler out with varying degrees of injuries.
Geoff Cameron earned the start on Wednesday against Belgium but struggled to move forward and against Germany elected to start Evans who has played the position only occasionally with his club Seattle Sounders.
The decision to start Evans at right back was risky for Klinsmann but the gamble paid off huge dividends as Evans was sharp defensively and effective in his passing game out of the backline.
"I played a couple of Open Cup games there, a couple of league games there with the Sounders," Evans said. "When the coaches have confidence in you and the players have confidence in you, you feel good about being on the field no matter where you are."
"Right back is a little more different," he added. "It's a little simpler. You don't have to worry about threading the ball through and there's not as much pressure to go forward. Maybe that takes some of the pressure off knowing it's defense first and if I get the chance to go forward, then that's the second option. First I'm worried about defense and connecting my passes."
Klinsmann informed Evans shortly after the Belgium game that he was going to be given a shot at right back against Germany and Evans admits that he took the news as a great opportunity more than a surprise.
His first steps in terms of preparation were to watch the tapes from the Belgium game to learn what was expected. His goal was to have a strong start against Germany and then find his way into the game.
"I'm still learning the position first and foremost," Evans said. "By no means do I know the position but I try to use what I know playing in the midfield and out wide. It's a complete transition and that mental switch and you really have to focus coming into camp. Some days I'm in midfield. Today I found myself at right back and made some adjustments and tried to connect my first few passes to get into a rhythm of the game. From there things went well for me."
Another key factor in Evans' success was his partnership with Graham Zusi who played in front of him at right midfield. Zusi was able to track back and defend and move forward to receive passes out of the back from Evans.
After the effective day, it is likely that both Evans and Zusi could earn the start this Friday for the World Cup qualifier against Jamaica in Kingston. Evans looks forward this week to developing the chemistry between the two MLS stalwarts.
"I thought we did great and Graham's effort on defense is phenomenal," Evans said. "That's what you ask for from your outside mids. On offense and defense, his engine is tremendous. It takes time to develop a partnership and there are times I need to go forward a little bit more but that will hopefully come with training."
For Evans and the U.S team will have to prepare quickly ahead of the important game against Jamaica. The team currently sits in second place in Concacaf World Cup qualifying but the standings remain tight with little separation between the top and bottom of the table.
For now, however, Evans is excited that he has potentially staked a claim towards earning minutes as the games become important and the team builds towards next year's World Cup in Brazil. He knows that it is just one game but he is confident Sunday's performance from both a team and individual perspective.
"Of course, starting for the national team is the ultimate goal," Evans concluded. "All that matters is the next game and you learn from this game, watch the tape, and see what you can do better. We watched the tape from the Belgium game. Jurgen said ‘let's get tighter' Let's put pressure on them and make them try to create game.' We came out with more defensive bite."
He added: "Germany was missing important players but they're still a high quality team and their players at top clubs in Europe. You come out, you put pressure on teams and finish your chances - anytime you score four goals, it doesn't matter who it's against, - as long as your score four goals you have a good chance at winning."