RENTON – Sounders FC worked closer to full strength Saturday as midfielder Brad Evans and defender Jeff Parke returned from duty with the U.S. national team.
The pair received the call in early January and left immediately for training under national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Evans appeared as a reserve in the USA’s 1-0 wins over Venezuela and Panama, his fifth and sixth caps. Parke made his national team debut Wednesday in Panama City.
“That’s what it’s all about,” Parke said. “You battle and you see what it’s like to be at the highest level.”
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Evans was first called to national duty during the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup under coach Bob Bradley. This was his first experience under Klinsmann.
“It was definitely different,” Evans said. “I just remember with Bob from the get-go it was playing twice a day with fitness. It was pretty intense. Jurgen’s philosophy is he wants everybody together on the same page, so I think for the first six days we maybe played on the field twice.”
There were other differences. Bradley had used Evans as a defender; Klinsmann used him at his more familiar midfield spot.
Evans said he also felt more comfortable this time around.
“Obviously, when you get your first call up, you’re kind of nervous. You don’t know what to expect,” Evans said. “This one I knew pretty much what to expect from the get-go.”
It wasn’t that way for Parke, who admitted he was both happy and surprised to finally get the call at age 29.
He admitted frustration at being the only field player not used against Venezuela. But that was mitigated when he was rushed on in the 55th minute against Panama.
“All of a sudden we get a red card, and I’m like, ‘Oh (shoot).’ I was like, ‘I know my number’s going to be called soon,’ ” Parke said. “And I literally took two steps and they’re like, ‘Jeff!’ and I was like, ‘Oh, here we go...’ I didn’t even stretch. I barely did anything. Just turned around, ran over, stood there for a sec and waited for my jersey, put it on and got out there. Give it your best. ... I’ll remember it the rest of my life.”
Evans and Parke returned to a Sounders team that has undergone significant personnel shifts since they last wore the rave green in November.
“I don’t even know names yet,” Evans said. “It’s going to take a couple of days, a couple practices, to get used to guys – similar to the camp we were just in. ... Overall a good training. It will be exciting over the next couple of weeks to see how everything folds out.”
The Sounders will fly to Arizona on Monday to begin the second phase of training at Casa Grande, between Phoenix and Tucson. ... Coach Sigi Schmid said five players can look forward to extra conditioning work when they get there. ... The first cuts of camp were scheduled Saturday afternoon. Schmid did not immediately announce them, pending notification of the players. ... Schmid said he was pleased with what was accomplished during the first phase of camp. “We got to see players, we got to identify players,” he said. “... And also we have a good idea now where we think some guys are best in terms of their positions.”
Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer