Seattle Sounders FC midfielder/defender Brad Evans — the newest hero of the U.S. national men’s soccer team — plans to be in the crowd of 55,000 or so watching his Major League Soccer club meet the Vancouver Whitecaps at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at CenturyLink Field.
Evans scored in stoppage time Friday to give the United States a 2-1 win in its World Cup qualifying match at Jamaica. Sounders forward Eddie Johnson came on in the 83rd minute.
The U.S. team is expected to arrive in Seattle by midafternoon, and Evans hoped to introduce some of his USA teammates to the atmosphere of a Sounders match ahead of their next qualifier: Tuesday against Panama at CenturyLink Field.
“I’m going to spread the word and see what guys want to go,” Evans said by conference call this week. “I’m sure you’ll see hopefully at least a handful of players, and hopefully we’ll have a monster crowd that night, too, which would be really cool.”
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A monster crowd is assured for Saturday: Ticket sales for the Cascadia Cup match clicked over 50,000 at midweek. This is one of four games this season when the Sounders will open the entire upper bowl, creating a capacity of around 67,000.
The advance sale also assures that the Sounders-Whitecaps game will outdraw the USA-Panama match. Sales for that one stand at around 37,000, and attendance will be capped at 42,000 because it coincides with a Mariners-Astros game at neighboring Safeco Field.
“I (estimate a total of) probably 90,000-100,000 by the time it’s said and done,” Sounders general manager Adrian Hanauer said about the combined soccer crowds. “It’s a lot of people going to soccer games over a three-day period. I’m glad more of them are coming to the Sounders game.”
Some national commentators didn’t share that outlook, instead expressing dismay that the region isn’t supporting its national team as well as its club team.
Sounders coach Sigi Schmid, who also has coached in the U.S. Soccer system, doesn’t see it that way.
“A lot of the other U.S. Soccer games ... have been in smaller venues of 20,000 and so forth,” he said. “I’ve been involved when I was with U.S. Soccer in some big games, but it was always against Mexico. You’re playing Panama. Obviously, it’s a World Cup qualifier, and it’s a good team, but they’re not
the premier team in the region. On the same token, I think (37,000) is a pretty respectable crowd, and I think when you look at that total number of fans — and you take out games against Mexico — I think that stacks up pretty well.”
The USA’s only other home game so far in this qualifying round, against Costa Rica, drew an announced sellout crowd of 19,374 in Commerce City, Colo.
Qualifying home games ahead will be played in Sandy, Utah; Columbus, Ohio; and Kansas City, Kan. — all in stadiums with capacities about half of what the national team will draw in Seattle.
Fans who visit CenturyLink to see the national team next week will see two Sounders in red, white and blue: Johnson and Evans, who said it will be an honor to represent his country on his club team’s pitch.
“Playing in front of your home crowd is something that everybody loves to do, and it will be a spectacle, that’s for sure,” Evans said. “I know they’ll come out in numbers. The fans will be behind us 100 percent, and I think it will be something very, very special. Regardless if I play, suit up, whatever it is, it’s going to be a special night, and I can’t wait to showcase it for the other guys on the team who haven’t played in our stadium or played in front of our crowd.”
Sounders defender DeAndre Yedlin was named to the U.S. U-20 World Cup team Friday. The U-20 World Cup will be played June 21-July 13 in Turkey. Yedlin will miss two to four Sounders games, depending on how the USA does. ... The Sounders announced that midfielder Steve Zakuani would undergo sports hernia surgery Tuesday and then need six to eight weeks for recovery.
VANCOUVER WHITECAPS (4-4-4, 16 POINTS) AT SOUNDERS FC (5-4-3, 18)
7:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: NBC Sports Network. Radio: 97.3-FM.
Head to head: The Sounders lead the Major League Soccer series 2-0-3. Seattle is 62-46-21 against Vancouver through all leagues and competitions since their first North American Soccer League match in 1974.
Notes: More than 51,000 tickets have been sold. Tickets remain available, as the entire stadium will be open. Seattle is 6-0-2 in MLS games drawing more than 40,000, with a plus-14 goal differential. ... This is the second of six Cascadia Cup matches for each team. Both are 0-0-1 in the competition after home draws with Portland. ... The game will be played on a temporary grass pitch brought in for the USA-Panama World Cup qualifier Tuesday. ... Seattle is 4-1 over its last five league games and has the best record in MLS over the last seven (5-1-1). The Sounders have a four-game unbeaten streak at home, and they have scored four goals in each of their last two home matches. The Whitecaps are 1-4-1 on the road. ... Vancouver is led by forwards Kenny Miller and Camilo, with three goals each. ... Seattle will be without Shalrie Joseph (suspension), Osvaldo Alonso and Steve Zakuani (injury), and Brad Evans, Eddie Johnson and Mario Martinez (national team duty). ... Former Sounders play-by-play man Arlo White will call his final MLS game for NBCSN before taking over the network’s play-by-play duties for the English Premier League. ... The assigned referee is Hilario Grajeda.
Quotable: “Last year, we felt a little bit hard done in the Cascadia Cup by having to play four away and two at home. This is the year we get to play four at home and two away, so we have to make that part of the thing stand up, and we want to bring the Cascadia Cup to our fans.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid
Next: 6:30 p.m. June 22, at Real Salt Lake.