Three Good Questions for: Seattle midfielder Brad Evans

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TUKWILA, Wash. — Splitting his career between Columbus and the Pacific Northwest, Brad Evans has never been in a position to command attention, a status that made him a selection for the U.S. Men’s National Team squad for their World Cup Qualifier in Honduras. For most Major League Soccer fans, Evans is a decent player but not somebody who was on their “USMNT” radars.

Watch Evans over the course of a season and you see values that transcend decent, Take his versatility, for example. Last season, Evans played all across the midfield. He played central defense and fullback. Within games, as Sigi Schmid tried to put Mauro Rosales and Christian Tiffert in their most advantageous positions, Evans filled in the gaps.

We even saw points where Evans became an outright attacking winger, as he did early in Seattle’s Aug. 25 win at Chivas USA. He’s 10th minute goal was one of four he scored last season.

With the acquisition of Shalrie Joseph potentially pushing the 27-year-old out of central midfield, Evans’s versatility may again be tested in 2013. Earlier this week we caught up with Evans to talk about that as part of our Three Good Questions:

You were a guy who performed a lot of different roles last year for the team, filled in where needed. What do you see your role being this year, particularly with the acquisition of Shalrie?

Obviously Shalrie is a tremendous player. [He’s] somebody who, when I first got in the league, was one or maybe two guys who I really looked up to and said if I can model a career after him I’d be doing pretty good. He’s a guy when you’re playing against you say ‘God, I have to play against this guy today. I’ve got to put in my best effort because he’ll make you look stupid.’

To have him on the team is a blessing because he’ll provide either depth or maybe he starts in a starting role and maybe some positions are moved around a little bit. But either way I’ve always been a team-first guy. Wherever I play, I play, and the bottom line is I want to win.

(AUTHOR: Even if that means putting in time at right back?)

Yeah, wherever. Put some gloves on me, man. I just want to win the game. Anything to make the team better is what I’m about.

Now that you’re a part of the national team setup, is where you play a little bit more of a concern?

The first thing they said was versatility is going to be key in moving forward with the national team. You’ve noticed a couple of injuries at right back, with Cherundolo getting injured. Maybe suspensions, something like that. These things are going to happen.

It’s better to be ready and be mentally prepared to play any position. Like I played in the Canada game. I started at center mid then moved and played 45 minutes at right back.

For me, nothing changes. My mindset stays the same. One week I’ll play center mid. Next week, I’ll play center back. Doesn’t matter. I’m going to prepare the same way. I’m going to play the same way.

It’s about being a student of the game, most importantly. Hopefully, it pays off.

All the West’s powers have had turnover this year except for San Jose, and they’ve got half their team injured, it seems like. How do you assess the West from your point of view, particularly those top four teams?

It’s tough to assess. Some fans will look at it [and say] ‘We beat Salt Lake twice this preseason, so that’s a wash. We’ll beat them three times.’ That’s just not how it is.

Teams get hot at different times. People will get healthy at the right time. I’m sure we’ll have our injuries througout the season.

It’s a long season. You try not to approach it and look at the big picture too much. We like to focus on this Saturday.

In the past, that’s benefitted us. We’ll focus on what lies ahead, and then if we get closer to Supporters’ Shield or regaining the Open Cup – wherever it is, then we’ll look at that when it comes.

Right now, I’d like to be focused on what he have here, try to build our team, and when we cross that path, we’ll deal with it then.

With Osvaldo Alonso suspended for the season opener, Evans will likely be in his customary central midfield position Saturday against Monday. He’ll probably see time at right back, once Sharlie Joseph is match fit in a month. You’ll see him play wide in midfield, and those one or two times randomness rears it’s mercurial head this season, you’ll see him in central defense.

That might mean his contributions get overlooked, but it also means he has a route into the national team.

“This game belongs to the players” Wenger downplays Guardiola success

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Arsene Wenger has stressed that Pep Guardiola has not changed the game of soccer over the last decade or so, maintaining that the players are the ones who make a team truly great.

Asked if Guardiola has “raised the bar” of managing in his time at the top, Wenger said, “No, because you look at Barcelona and they are still the best team in Europe. You have to accept that the modern game has changed with the recruitment of the best players in a short number of clubs.”

[ MORE: EFL Cup final preview ]

“We, as managers, can maybe impart our philosophy but this game belongs to the players because the importance of the players has become bigger than ever before.”

In fact, Wenger showed a twinge of jealousy at all the attention Guardiola is getting with the team blowing out the rest of the Premier League this season, referencing trophies in the recent past Arsenal has hoisted. “We are maybe underdogs but we have to believe in our quality. The history, the fact we have done it before, shows why not do it again?”

“At the end of the day, you have to be cool,” Wenger said, “because Manchester City is dominating the league in the head of everybody and so maybe we are more underdogs than in the FA Cup semi-final [last season when Arsenal beat Man City].”

Deportivo wastes penalty kick, remains winless under Seedorf

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MADRID (AP) — Clarence Seedorf remained winless as Deportivo La Coruna coach after a 0-0 draw with Espanyol in the Spanish league on Friday.

Deportivo squandered chances including a second-half penalty kick taken by Lucas Perez. Its winless streak reached 10 games in all competitions.

It was the third game in a row without a victory since Seedorf took over to try to avoid relegation. Deportivo was 18th in the 20-team standings, in the relegation zone.

In addition to the missed penalty, Deportivo twice hit the posts in front of a supportive crowd at Riazor Stadium. The players left the field applauded by the local fans despite the setback.

Perez’s penalty attempt was saved by Espanyol goalkeeper Diego Lopez in the 65th minute. Lopez, who earlier this season stopped a penalty taken by Lionel Messi, dived to his right to stop Perez’s low shot.

The match marked the Deportivo debut of veteran Ghanaian midfielder Sulley Muntari. He played alongside Seedorf at AC Milan, and was signed this week after a trial period.

Espanyol, 15th in the standings, hasn’t won in seven matches, since it ended Barcelona’s 29-match unbeaten streak in the first leg of the Copa del Rey quarterfinals. Espanyol’s last league win was in January, seven rounds ago.

Barcelona defends its seven-point lead in the standings when it hosts Girona on Saturday. Second-place Atletico Madrid visits Sevilla on Sunday.

Conte says he believes in his selection regarding Willian

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Antonio Conte has lashed out at anyone questioning why Brazilian winger Willian hasn’t played regularly.

Conte fired back at reporters when he was asked about Willian’s earlier lack of playing time at his pre-match press conference ahead of Chelsea’s match on Sunday against Manchester United. “Do you think that I am stupid when I put Willy on the bench?”

[ MORE: Heynckes squashes Lewandowski to Premier League rumors ]

“I have to try and make the best decision for the team, no? Maybe last season we won the title, or did I forget something?”

The 29-year-old has made 29 Premier League appearances, but only 13 starts. He started in the midweek Champions League match against Barcelona and not only scored Chelsea’s only goal but also proved their most incisive player, prompting questions about his selection.

“Now he is playing because he deserves to play, not because there is some regret from the past,” Conte said. “For what? If a player deserves to play, and shows me during the training session that he is on top of his form, and wants to work defensively, he plays. If not, [he will] stay on the bench, stay in the stands.”

Instead of saying he wishes Willian had played more earlier in the season, he praised himself for giving the Brazilian the start at the appropriate time.

“He is playing now and I am very happy with my choice. Willian deserved to start in the previous game, and played well. I did a fantastic choice, and I want to take credit for that.”

EFL Cup Final preview: Arsenal, Manchester City fight for different types of glory

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  • These two clubs have never met in a major Cup final
  • With a win, Arsene Wenger would become the 8th PL manager to win all 3 major English trophies
  • Sergio Agüero has scored in all of his last 4 appearances against Arsenal

For Manchester City, it’s the first step of a potentially record-setting season. For Arsenal, it’s the Gunners’ best chance at securing a trophy.

The two teams are fighting for very different levels of glory as the two meet at Wembley Stadium on Sunday at 11:30 a.m. ET. Manchester City, despite losing to Wigan in the FA Cup just a week ago, would still be on track for a Double this season with a win against the Gunners. Meanwhile, Arsenal is outside the Premier League top four, and – as they have done each of the past two seasons in the FA Cup – could salvage an otherwise disappointing league season with a major Cup trophy.

Both teams will be struggling with selection in certain areas. Manchester City is likely missing Raheem Sterling, who could sit out due to an unspecified muscle injury according to Pep Guardiola in his pre-match press conference, while Fabian Delph is suspended after his sending off against Wigan in the FA Cup. That means either Danilo or 21-year-old Oleksandr Zinchencko would start at wing-back. Zinchenko is the likely candidate there, having appeared in four of City’s five EFL Cup games this season so far and playing almost every minute of those four matches. Gabriel Jesus, who missed more than two months with a knee injury, could be ready to make his early return. Claudio Bravo will continue to play in goal for the domestic Cup competitions.

Arsenal, meanwhile, is without new signing Henrikh Mkhitaryan who is cup-tied to his previous club Manchester United, while Alexandre Lacazette is not yet recovered from his knee injury suffered in the North London derby, and Mesut Ozil could miss out with an illness. The Gunners are likely, however, to get Aaron Ramsey back in midfield after recovering from a groin injury, while Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang can return to the lineup after his own cup tied absence in the Europa League midweek.

What they’re saying

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola on playing Arsenal twice in a week: “We will be happy if we win, sad if we don’t but after the game we have another match against Arsenal. We are going to try and maintain our level, but finals are different, it is not what you have done in the past.”

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on playing Manchester City: “Manchester City have so many players that you think you have to stop that it is better to focus on the team plan than rather than on any individual. It’s true that I always used to use this competition with a youth team. For us it’s an opportunity. We’ll play with all the regular players.” 

Prediction

Arsenal has often come up big in hotly contested Cup matches, despite poor form in the surrounding competitions, so it would not be surprising to once again see Arsene Wenger hoist a trophy on Sunday to temporarily distract the fanbase and media from larger struggles. However, picking against this Manchester City team would be selection suicide, even after their disappointment against Wigan and considering the absence of under the radar star Raheem Sterling. Manchester City wins 3-1 with a pair of late goals to sink the Gunners, with a newly healthy Gabriel Jesus providing an influential injection off the bench in the final 20 minutes. Pep Guardiola raises another trophy at the site where he won the 2011 Champions League.