Brad Evans Talks MLS, USMNT World Cup Prediction, More in B/R AMA

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured Columnist IVJuly 1, 2022

Photo: Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Brad Evans' long soccer career included MLS stints with the Columbus Crew, Seattle Sounders and Sporting Kansas City and 27 caps with the United State men's national team.

The now-retired midfielder and defender joined B/R for an AMA that touched on everything from his MLS career, his least favorite team and players to face and his predictions for the USMNT ahead of this winter's World Cup.

Signing Day Sports

@BleacherReport Can you talk to me about what you are doing with Signing Day Sports?

Signing Day Sports is a very cool platform. It’s a digital ecosystem that helps athletes get discovered and recruited for college sports. I know they have been deep in football and baseball, in more stats-driven sports. We think of those sports like “Ok you can throw this fast” Now we know your metrics. Soccer is becoming a data-driven sport. The Sounders have an entire staff built for sports science. We wear GPS on our backs, so you know how much you’ve ran, high-intensity distance covered. Every single metric that you can think of. And now with Signing Day, if you sign on as a soccer player you can upload any stat. Your 5-10-5, your 40, everything. We are now letting any college coach know when it comes to separating certain players as a coach, I want to see who is most fit, who can run this test at this time that fits into my system. I think a lot of players were overlooked because of that in years past. Now you can also upload video. These are my aerial duels specifically, these are my key passes. That’s exactly what professional sports teams are doing to find players overseas and throughout the world Now we are building this platform to say OK, “you want to make it to the next level?” We have this rolodex of players and coaches that are going to run through and say “OK these are your test scores for academics, physical test scores, can he head the ball? Can he cross? Can he finish?” And now, there’s no hiding in soccer, we can see everything now and that’s what I love about this platform. The data is video-verified using this third party platform so everything is what you see.

@BleacherReport What was your recruiting journey like, going from Arizona to play soccer in California?

At the time Arizona did not have Division 1 soccer. On my club teams when you hit 16 it was like are your parents going to pay for you to play for another couple years or are you going to work and try and focus on getting into ASU or U of A just go to go school.

We were left with a group of 18 super committed players and really good players, too. Oftentimes, why would a California school go out of their way to spend an out-of-state scholarship on one kid from Arizona. I got recruited by Oregon State but they couldn’t offer me any money, so that was out. St. Marys College was a little too small, it was like the size of my high school, again no real money. UC Riverside reminded me too much of Arizona. I was going to go to Oregon State and then last-minute the coach of UC Irvine came out and sat with my family was like, “Hey, we can offer a little money but the education here is going to be tops of what any other school is" and we just said “OK.” I had never been to Newport Beach or Irvine, so I didn’t go on a recruiting visit. I just said, “Alright, I am going to go play.” The transition was actually tough because it was a La Nina year in California, it felt like Seattle for the first four months, but slowly got used to it.

I saw so many players on my club team not get the opportunity to play at the next level. If you ask my family, they'll be the first ones to say I was not the best one on my club team. The thing that separated me from the others was my parent's ability to pay for college, ultimately make the sacrifice to let me get to the next level, but a lot of guys on my team were overlooked because they didn't have the resources to put themselves out there. There is one player specifically, I've never seen someone better on the ball than this kid. I feel bad that he didn't get to shine on the next level, and it takes a lot to get seen by D1 schools. Signing Day Sports, you can sign up and get yourself out there. Just the accessibility for coaches all around the country to see you, especially players in Arizona that don't get seen. It's my home state, so I'll always be partial to Arizona.

@SMXC What did your game prep look like? Anything special?

Gameday, I tried not to get into too many superstitions. Home games it’s super easy to stay into the game – wearing the same clothes, eating the same and that stuff. No real superstitions, but I did always used to put my left shin guard on before my right shin guard. I always remember, I always performed well when I had these chicken enchiladas the night before that my wife made. I couldn’t get it on the road so I didn’t like to let that get in my head, but pretty much only those two things.

@CamTheDragon Any tips on having such a good penalty success rate?

I didn’t think about this until I was retired. I think I was 12/12 overall. In my high school, our coach made us take PKs and if you missed you had to do fitness. He tied this punishment act to it, and my mentality was to avoid any more fitness than I already had done. I always used to go bottom right. We played in an Open Cup game in Kansas City and the goalkeeper actually went to the locker room to get notes. I was thinking he was in my head. He thought I was going to go bottom right, and at the last second, I’m not sure why, but I changed and went to my left. I think I only did that two times in my career and it was very uncomfortable to go the opposite way I usually went.

@CardiacCat1 How realistic is it when players say they can ignore what outside perceptions of them are? If you have a ‘bad’ performance, is it easy to really get away from internalizing any criticism?

It’s really hard. As professional athletes you are your own worst critic. I remember my grandma had passed away and I was like: ‘I’m going to play this game for my family and have a lights out game.’ I made two fatal errors against San Jose and that’s the game I replay in my head to this day, the one I made the mistakes. I did not talk to anyone. I went home and said ‘I’m done playing soccer.’ It’s always doomsday as an athlete when you don’t perform because the expectations are so high, but it’s all about the next play. You have to have this goldfish memory as an athlete. Good coaches and a good mental crew can really help you out when you make mistakes.

I coach high school right now and I’ll tell my players: ‘I don’t care if you make mistakes. Just focus on the next play.’

@Just_in_time Was it a wake-up call to get selected by Seattle in the expansion draft after so little time in Columbus?

It was pretty wild. I got to Columbus. I got injured the whole first year. I battled my way into the lineup the second year, ended up starting almost every game, winning the MLS Cup. Three days later, I was picked by Seattle in the expansion draft. I had given my all to this team and they basically told me they didn’t value me. However, it was a blessing in disguise because Seattle has been the best team for the past 12, 13 years. I got to play there for 9 of them and captain them, which was really special. Stepping into an expansive team, historically they don’t perform, but we did luckily.

We get 30,000 fans every game the first year, which was incredible. It ended up being great but at the time, it was a kick in the shin.

@BR_Football Who was your least favorite MLS team to play against? (Besides the obvious Timbers)

For me, it was always Salt Lake for some reason. You are playing at altitude. You don’t realize but it’s at like 5500 feet elevation. It’s always windy, the field is hard and they had a really good team. I think we won there like one time in my 9 years playing.

I played attacking mid and there were only two players I hated playing against and Kyle Beckerman was one of them, and he was on Salt Lake.

@TheDudeyaKnow What went through your mind when Stefan Frei made that save on Altidore in the MLB Cup Final?

It was insane. I came into the game as a sub as a right midfielder. It was a counter attack play. I was busting my ass to get back and play defense. If you watch the replay slowly, I was kind of able to get one hand on Jozy to try to set him off. I think it was after the header but I like to tell myself hopefully it kept it out of the corner just enough for Frei to make the save. I don’t think we had a shot on goal, and ended up winning in penalties. The grossest way you can win a championship, but they don’t ask how, they ask how many at the end of the day. That’s just a save that will be an image in my mind forever and Stefan Frei actually got a little star tattoo on his hand that he made the save with that night.

@Luis_Camacho What was the toughest part about getting to the MLS and playing for the USMNT?

The hardest part is staying healthy and mentally staying in that grind. From the outside, it’s all glitz and glamor but, when you’re in it every day, you realize how big of a business it is. That’s why a lot of guys in MLS don’t buy homes in cities they live in. At the end of the day, if you’re playing well and management thinks they can get three players for you, you’re out of there. The flip side of that is if you’re not performing, they need a guy who can perform. There’s always this tension.

You need to find these outlets off the field. At the time we had a dog and that’s how I kept my mind off of negativity and just using my resources to stay as fit as possible. The national team was 27 caps over a long time with three different coaches. I thought that was pretty cool that three coaches saw something with me.

@GB213 As a fan, I like to think that a great crowd can have a genuine impact on the game? From a player’s perspective, what’s your POV on that?

The Sounders fans are insane. If you talk to any MLS player around the league in the past 12, 13 years they’ve been around, Seattle is a destination for players. Most other teams are a stop through for players to get somewhere else. Once you leave here, you want to come back because you don’t get this atmosphere really anywhere else in my opinion. There’s a couple of places that are climbing and getting there, but from 2009-2019 there is no better atmosphere than the Sounders and for me, it continues to be the best and that spurs you on in the game. You can’t hear anybody on the field. That’s how loud it is and that gives you a tingle in your spine.

@CamTheDragon What made you come back to Seattle after finishing your career? Was that something you always had your sights set on ?

I went to school at UC Irvine and Southern California is pretty dang nice. Ultimately what brought us back here was the culture of the city and how much of a community it is. Once we talked about it, it was pretty much a no-brainer. I carved out this really cool role with the Sounders where I’ver had a really fun time over the past few years. For me, the exit out of soccer was great. We just disconnected from soccer and found that love again. I left, only watched one game in a year, and started to get that itch again to be involved in the sport somehow, so stoked to be back. There is no better city.

@Giants87910812 Any thoughts on the evolution of MLS academies? Does college soccer still provide a path for the national team?

I do actually. Now that I am coaching high school soccer, if you look at Europe everyone’s path to getting to the next level is so different. That’s because in a small town you’ve got academies, League 1, League 2, a conference league and everyone has their own journey to get to the next level. College soccer will continue to provide that next step for the guys that at the time they have not developed enough for an academy. I would have never been invited to an academy to train, I wasn’t that guy. I was a super late bloomer, it wasn’t until sophomore year of college that I stepped into an environment where there were guys in front of me that were pushing me and taking me to practices with a team called Blue Star that was in the PDL. Ultimately, I trained with Chivas and Galaxy on the side, but I will always believe that college soccer can provide that next level talent.

Is it few and far between now? Yes, but there still so many players that need that year or two extra to develop into the player that they can provide MLS. If you look at the Sounders, this team is committed to the draft, college players, academy players, trading within the league, getting foreign players. There’s not a mechanism the Sounders will skip to find that next player. A player just started for us from UW named Dylan Teves. A Wlocal kid that went to school for a couple of years and did well, and that was his opportunity. Overlooked by academies, but he starts for us. On the flipside we signed a 15 year old who is just about to turn 17 who is a provider every week. It’s still there, you have to give every player a fair chance to show themselves and I think college soccer does that.

@Kilistwhitt I’ll always remember your tweet calling out Ronaldo saying ‘he got off’ easy after you missed the WC squad. What do you think you would have contributed back in 2014?

I think for that squad specifically I played almost every WCQ. Unfortunately, I got hit with a calf injury a couple of months before the pre-World Cup camp so I did not go in fit enough, but I still think as a veteran player I could play any position at the time, not just right back or center mid. I think providing that guy in the locker room who can get along with everyone at the time. I know what it’s like to lead a locker room. I could also play multiple positions, so if Deandre is going to start every game at right back, maybe there’s 15 minutes I could come in and clean stuff up. I don’t think the team really had that going. A player that was there and really committed. The team did well, but I still think I could have added a little bit to that team and I’ll always reminisce about those times and wonder, what if? As an athlete you never want to say “what if?” And that’s actually what I love about this platform, being able to get everything you need so you don’t look back and say “what if I would have just done that extra step?” Like we talked about, it’s a stats-driven sport, you have to do it to get to the next level.

@CadeDraughton Will CR7 or Messi ever come to the MLIS?

I do. I don’t see why not. I actually thought it would happen a little earlier, maybe a year or two ago. I don’t think they would make as much money coming to MLS now to be honest. The league is beyond the days of paying the 35-36 year-old David Beckham $8-10 million a year. I think you’re seeing more conscious signings in MLS now. We’re at the point of finding the right balance of getting that 28-33 year old who can make an impact. You’re seeing smarter signings now, but I still think we might see Messi in Miami and maybe Ronaldo could be in NY or LA. I don’t these guys going to Kansas City or the middle of the country I don’t think.

@GGDHITFBK WC prediction for the USMNT?

I think when I look at this USMNT, it looks young to me. The last World Cup cycle we advanced to in 2014 seemed like a bunch of men playing that had a lot of European experience. These guys have a ton of European experience, but I don’t know about World Cup experience. That’s a huge difference. They’re going to have to show up and play like men. I think they’ll do that. I think they’ll advance out of the group and then it’s just up to what happens next. We were so close to beating Belgium, inches. That’s how close this team can get to making the round of eight and that would be really special for this country moving forward as soccer grows even more. You always want to highlight the biggest sport in the world in our country.


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