Thursday, March 10, 2011

SOUNDERS FC: Brad Evans or Erik Friberg

One might assume that a player who is not far removed from playing on the U.S. National team would be an easy lock to start for an MLS squad. Tell that to Brad Evans, and he would tell you otherwise. As of now, Evans looks to have the starting role at center-midfielder, but how long will it last?

The addition of Swedish midfielder Erik Friberg has raised some doubts as to who exactly should be holding down the center of the park for the Sounders. Evans is coming off a knee injury that sidelined him for much of last season, but has looked good in preseason. On the other hand, Friberg has been impressive from the get go.

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Both players have solid touch, which is a must for a center midfielder. Evans is a player who thrives on timely runs, creating scoring opportunities. While these runs are often dangerous to opposing defenses, they can also lead to quick counter attacks. Defending counter attacks has been a concern for the Sounders all preseason and is something that will need to be improved upon. Evans is a workhorse, which coaches love, but to me it seems his skill set might be better suited as an outside midfielder.

In my opinion, Friberg is a more natural fit at center-mid. His touch is excellent, and his superb vision of the field would help create scoring chances for Montero and Nkufo up front. Friberg also seems to have the upper hand when it comes to free kicks. As he showed Sunday against the Whitecaps, Friberg was able to pick out his target and deliver the ball with perfect pace.

Another concern for Evans could be staying healthy. He has been prone to knee injuries and suffered a strained hamstring in the win over Colorado. The early report said Evans would likely miss 1-3 weeks, but according to head coach Sigi Schmid, Evans is feeling better and might play against L.A. That possibility is not looking as bright for Steve Zakuani.

After injuring his right hip in Wednesday’s 3-1 win over the Colorado Rapids, Zakuani could be a scratch for Tuesdays match against the L.A. Galaxy. If this is the case, it could be a chance to see Evans and Friberg playing side by side. When asked who would start in place of Zakuani, Schmid was unsure, but discussed a possibility of Evans moving to left-mid, and starting Friberg in the center.

Although this move is not a done deal, it would be interesting to watch. Not only would we get to see how Friberg fits in the middle with the other starters, but it would allow Evans to make his attacking runs much like he has been accustomed to doing. However, if this is the lineup that Sigi chooses to go with, it could be worrisome for Evans. If Friberg shows well, which I believe he will, will it be enough to earn a fulltime spot over Evans? It is worthy of noting that all three goals scored Wednesday came when Friberg was in the middle. Evans will obviously be pulled from left-mid as soon as Zakuani is fit for play. The question is, will he be bumped back into the center, or could he find himself back on the bench?

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