Seattle Sounders midfielder Brad Evans (3) at a recent practice in Casa Grande. (photo by Jose Romero)
Evans, a Seattle Sounders midfielder from Phoenix, has been part of an MLS Cup championship and U.S. Open Cup title going into his fifth year in Major League Soccer.
Not a great many pro athletes look forward to preseason training camp like Brad Evans.
Late January means he gets to come home for a couple of weeks. Or close to it, in this case.
Evans, 25, is a midfielder for one of Major League Soccer's most successful teams in its first two years of existence, the Seattle Sounders. The former All-Arizona standout from Mountain Pointe High School has the distinction of having scored a goal in the first-ever MLS match in club history in March 2009.
Last year, the Sounders began coming to Grande Sports World in Casa Grande for preseason training and returned this year. Evans is only too happy to be on the field after a knee injury wiped out the last five months of the 2010 season for him.
"I think I have something to prove, especially for a number of reasons. You don't want to get injured in the middle of the season," Evans said. "I think I worked hard to try and come back from the injury multiple times but it just wasn't working, so after shutting it down, you kind of start thinking about what you should do."
Evans shut it down, then eventually hit the gym with Sounders trainers. His team showed faith in Evans by placing him on the list of protected players that could not be chosen in the MLS expansion draft last November.
"It's up to me to put in the work day in and day out and kind of pay that back, as cheesy as that sounds," Evans said.
The competition isn't cheesy. Evans, a fifth-year MLS veteran who has a championship with the Columbus Crew and three U.S. national team caps, is part of a wealth of talented midfielders that are either signed or battling to make the 30-man roster as a senior or developmental player.
He'll make the team, but it not a given that Evans will start. For now, he's amazed at the growth of Casa Grande and the soccer facility.
"It's good to be here. This facility, although you don't like leaving home and you like the comforts of home, this is so easy because you have your living, your training room, nice lockers, shower, everything you need. And then you just walk out to the field," he said.
Evans didn't know Grande Sports World existed until last year. His high school team used to play Casa Grande High in league games, but the town was just a stop on the way to or from Tucson more than anything else.
Since then, an In N' Out Burger has been built, to Evans' delight.
"Now it's somewhere where you can get quality teams here," Evans said.