Re-visiting Brad Evans’ U.S. national team performance (and filtering some of the breathless praise)

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Let me put a few things on the record regarding Brad Evans:

Brad Evans had a nice match at right back Sunday against Germany.

I like Brad Evans. I’ve talked to him after a couple of matches, and it’s true what they say about the Seattle Sounders veteran: he’s a thinking man’s player. I really appreciate that.

When I’m GM or manager, I want Brad Evans on my team. Not just because he’s a technically proficient player who can fill a number of spots, but because he is a thinking man, the kind who makes everyone better around him by doing all those little things.

All that said … we might want to slow our roll a little on all the excited Brad Evans talk as the new and future U.S. right back.

He did exactly what he needed Sunday in a big test, defending well enough (albeit with lots of reliable help from U.S. right-sided man Graham Zusi.) As a “new” man at the position – yes, I am aware he has lined up as an outside back before, although sparingly – he needed to lock down the defensive side first and attack as “bonus.”

But the warning here is as much about friendlies and how we see them as it is about Evans himself.

There is always a danger of assigning too much value to standout individual performances in meaningless matches. I always say: A player can sure remove himself from national team consideration in these matches, demonstrating that he cannot think or perform fast enough at the highest level. But no player can ever truly prove he’s up for the job when nothing is on the line.

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These guys can stay in the game, so to speak, with good performances in friendlies. But without the pressure attached to the matches that matter, we just don’t know. How will Evans (or anybody else relatively new to a national team) react in the CONCACAF cauldrons? How will they look when they start thinking about cost and consequence of a mistake? How will they perform when they aren’t the new guy anymore, when fans and the fourth estate start expecting performance rather than being pleasantly surprised by it?

Besides all that, Evans’ game was hardly perfect Sunday (which I’m sure he would tell you).

Look at this excellent tactical breakdown from Liviu Bird over at American Soccer Now, where Matt Besler takes some lumps for his positioning, but where Evans is culpable on one of Germany’s goals, too.

And, seriously, did anybody along the U.S. back line really have that great a match considering the Americans conceded three goals at home?

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Finally, at international level, outside backs have to get forward, and productively so. Especially when teams sit back as Germany did. Zusi mostly worked the outside channel; I’d love to see a little more push from Evans (or whoever is there), clearing room for outside-inside runs from Zusi, forcing defenders to make choices and possibly even dragging a center back out of the middle to clear room for Clint Dempsey or Jozy Altidore or one of those swell, late runs from Michael Bradley.

Again, Evans did fine. He held serve and maybe a little more.

But let’s not get carried away here. That’s all I’m saying.