Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said last week that it could take five or six games to reach a conclusion on Brad Evans’ shift to center back.
Game two was a tough one.
After the Sounders unleased the quickest goal in team history, the San Jose Earthquakes stormed back for three straight goals and eventually a 3-2 win Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
Evans was involved in all three surrendered goals: two by Chris Wondolowski and the eventual game-winner by Innocent Emeghara.
“(Replacing Evans) was going through our mind, but he is the captain of the team, he is an important part of the team, he is a tremendous soccer player and a tremendous human being,” acting coach Brian Schmetzer said. “So I don’t think that if I had to second-guess myself, I probably would have done the same thing. But it did cross my mind, to be honest with you.”
Evans was among several Sounders who already had left the quiet locker room by the time the media was allowed in.
He is a longtime midfielder, who had some experience in recent seasons as an outside back with the U.S. national team and the Sounders. This season, the club asked him to shift to central defense alongside three-time MLS defender of the year Chad Marshall.
Evans got his first start there in the opener last weekend, a 3-0 win over New England. However, things were considerably rougher Saturday, even after the Sounders jumped ahead 18 seconds after the opening whistle.
That play unfolded down the left side, where Lamar Neagle cut the ball back across to left back Tyrone Mears. Mears fired on goal, but San Jose goalkeeper David Bingham blocked it. However, the rebound went to Clint Dempsey, who headed it back in.
“Sometimes when you score that early goal, it makes things difficult because the other team gets fired up, your team may let off the gas a little bit,” Schmetzer said. “But obviously it was a good start. If I had to ask, ‘Do I want to score early or do I not?’, I’m going to take the goal.”
However, things soon started to go wrong along the Sounders’ back line.
In the 13th minute, Marvell Wynne launched a pass over Evans and to Wondolowski, who controlled it the middle of the penalty area and sent it into the net.
In the 48th minute, Evans misplayed a ball in the area and Wondolowski took advantage, putting the Earthquakes (1-1-0) ahead, 2-1.
Those goals were the eighth and ninth of Wondolowski’s career against Seattle, the most by any opponent.
“He’s a good player,” Schmetzer said. “He showed you on that first goal. He was able to chest the ball down and smash it in. He is really, really a terrific MLS player, and he showed his class tonight.”
Seattle seemed to get a new boost four minutes later, when San Jose defender Victor Bernardez was shown a straight red card for kicking Micheal Azira. And for a time around the 60th minute, the Sounders seemed on the verge of taking advantage as they unleashed a barrage of shots.
However, none of them made it past Bingham. And in the 70th minute, Emeghara faked Evans off his feet and finished past goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
That became the winning goal after Obafemi Martins’ tapped in an Andy Rose pass from close range. That pulled the Sounders to within one, but the equalizer never came.
“After (taking the early lead), we made a few mistakes,” midfielder Gonzalo Pineda said. “I think after the first goal, you have to keep more possession and still get pressure on them. But we didn’t do that after the first goal, so those are the consequences.”
In the 80th minute, Mears left the game with what he called “a small hamstring tear.” Mears said he hopes the injury will keep him out only a couple of weeks, but no prognosis was immediately offered from the club.
Before the match, the Sounders announced that Schmid would be absent due to the wedding of his eldest son, Erik, and that Schmetzer would handle the coaching duties.
The Sounders (1-1-0) have bye next weekend. They will return to action March 24 with a friendly against Club Tijuana at CenturyLink Field. Seattle returns to league play March 28 at FC Dallas.