Seattle Sounders captain Brad Evans is working to learn a new position for a season he may play a role in delaying or even canceling.
Evans has embraced his shift from midfield to central defense as something that could be good for the Sounders and for his career. But as Seattle’s player representative, he says he and the players “absolutely” will vote to strike before this Major League Soccer season if the league does not bend to some form of free agency in the new collective bargaining agreement.
“I think at this point a strike is imminent if we don’t get what we want,” Evans said. “And that’s kind of where it stands. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes. But we all have to be smart about it, and we’ve all got to look at the repercussions. But we’ve also got to know that a lot of players built this league and feel that they should be rewarded with some sort of movement in where they play.”
Evans said the players had many areas they wanted to improve in the CBA that was agreed to shortly before the 2010 season. However, the current standoff centers on a clear No. 1 issue: free agency. It wouldn’t necessarily be instant or unfettered free agency. And it would play out under the familiar structure of the MLS salary cap. But Evans and the union believe that veteran players should have some control over where they play — a point of view the league has not embraced.
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“No progress has really been made on the big issues,” he said. “So I’m definitely not as confident as I was (at the start of camp). But … when you’re negotiating as that 11th hour comes along, I think that’s what you’re waiting for — for some movement. So I think that we’re kind of buckled down and waiting. And at that time we’ll take a vote and we’ll see where we stand.”
Meanwhile, Sounders FC management is leaving comment to the league.
“I realize it’s an unsatisfactory answer (but) we are not included in any way, shape or form in the process,” general manager Garth Lagerwey said. “That’s between the league and the players, and they will figure it out. Everyone gets fined I think a quarter-million bucks for talking to anybody else. I think that’s a fairly steep deterrent.”
The clock is ticking. The Sounders are in the middle of a week of local training. Then they take off for two weeks of training and games in Arizona. Then they return home for game-week preparations leading to their opener March 8 — or at least that’s the current schedule.
“My fervent hope is that we don’t have a work stoppage and that we’re ready to play March 8,” Lagerwey said. “I’d much rather scramble at the last minute to make sure we get everything launched the right way. To be clear: We’re planning on business as usual. … We’re planning on having a game not only on March 8 but every week this season. And we think we’re going to have a team that’s ready to play.”
If it turns out that way, Evans could be a key player in the heart of the Seattle defense, assuming a role handled last season by Zach Scott, Djimi Traore and Jalil Anibaba.
This season, Traore is retired, Anibaba was lost in the expansion draft, and Scott is 34 and coming off foot surgery. Given the Sounders’ relative depth at midfield, the idea of shifting the ever-versatile Evans gained traction.
“It was just my feeling that if we were going to make that switch with Brad that now might be the right time to do it,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “I didn’t want to wait until he was older because learning the nuance of the position would be more difficult. Some of the things he brings are he’s still got a great work ethic … his vision, his ability to organize.”
At age 29 and still on the national team’s radar, Evans continues to embrace his versatility — he says he’s played every position except goalkeeper. However, he does not want to go into the season as a pure utility player.
“I want to play one position, and I want to play it well,” he said. “I think this will give me the best chance moving forward.”
Assuming there is a season to move forward into.
NEW FACE ON DEFENSE
Sounders FC on Tuesday announced the signing of Andres Correa, a 21-year-old left back from Colombia.
Correa has spent the last four seasons with Fortaleza and Medellin, appearing in 17 games in the Colombian first division. He also has 10 appearances for the Colombian youth national teams.
He has been in Sounders camp as a “guest player,” and started Friday in the club’s friendly at the Los Angeles Galaxy.
He will compete with returning starter Leo Gonzalez and third-year man Dylan Remick.
“I think it’s a situation where Leo is getting older for us, for sure,” Schmid said. “We’ve got Dylan Remick, who had a little bit of an up-and-down season last year, but he’s been training very well also. … We’re looking for alternatives as we go forward, so it’s not just this season, it’s also the seasons after this one.”