It all started with Seattle Sounders coach Sigi Schmid’s preseason announcement that Brad Evans would shift from midfield to central defense, and his estimate that it would take about seven games to fairly assess the move.
Now seven games in, there has been one of the most high-profile bad performances in club history. But there also have been four shutouts. And most of all, there have been four wins, two losses and one draw — the best points-per-game average in the MLS Western Conference.
Schmid and Evans huddled Wednesday to compare notes.
“Sigi just asked me if I’m comfortable,” Evans said. “And I think I am feeling a little bit more comfortable. I think I’ll always reference back to one game — that will be a sticking point. And for whatever reason my mind tends to go there and I try to say, ‘Don’t make those mistakes twice.’ There are still things I need to do better, some glaring points on film. … And obviously I’m willing to put in the work.”
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That sticking point came in Game 2, a 3-2 home loss to San Jose. Evans was involved in all three opposing goals. And not just in subtle ways that show up only in the film room. These were big, obvious, out-in-the-open errors. Each outlined in neon. Each leading directly to a goal.
However, in the five games since, the Sounders haven’t allowed more than one goal. Three of those were shutouts, including the 1-0 win over rival Portland on Saturday.
Those numbers, plus the eyeball test, tell Schmid that the job is getting done.
“Our (0.71 goals-against average) is the lowest in the league right now,” he said. “So from that standpoint, it’s been OK. I think he’s still learning, he’s still improving. I asked him today how he felt. He feels a lot more comfortable at the position. So I’m happy with it. There are still more tests to come, and there will probably still be a mistake or two to come as well. Right now I think he’s doing more things right than wrong.”
The Sounders return to league play Sunday at New York City FC.
TROPHIES OVER FRIENDLIES
The International Champions Cup announced its lineup this week, including a match between Manchester United of England and Club America of Mexico on July 17 at CenturyLink Field.
Also included in the 10-team field are San Jose, Los Angeles and the New York Red Bulls of MLS. The Sounders might have been included also, but they chose to concentrate instead on the 2015-16 CONCACAF Champions League.
“The strategic choice was if we’re going to focus on Champions League … we weren’t willing to take on more games,” general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “We wanted to focus on Champions League, we want to win that tournament. (We’re willing) to go above and beyond to prepare for those Champions League games — to prioritize them — and this is part of that.”