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João Paulo on Sounders’ struggles: ‘We have to change our mentality’

Sounders well aware that recent play is not up to their standard.

MLS: Austin FC at Seattle Sounders FC Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

TUKWILA, Wash. — Josh Atencio was blunt in his assessment of the Seattle Sounders’ performance over the weekend, a 2-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

“Not good,” the midfielder said following Wednesday’s training session at Starfire Sports. “From top to bottom, as a group and individually, we weren’t technically sharp, we didn’t play together as a group and I think it showed. The number of sloppy giveaways we had and guys not being on the same page, you could watch the game and see we weren’t good.”

One recurring problem during the Sounders’ recent turn in form has been a penchant for falling behind. Including the 3-1 loss to the LA Galaxy in the U.S. Open Cup, the Sounders have now given up the first two goals in four of their last five competitive matches. As bad as the Sounders were last season, they only gave up the first two goals five times in their 43 competitive matches.

Simply put, that’s not up to the standard the Sounders have set for themselves.

“We had a good conversation after the game with coaches and players,” Sounders midfielder João Paulo said. “We need to change. It’s beyond the tactics. It’s the attitude on the field, it’s not good. We can say we were tired, about the travel, but we have to do better because we’re capable.

“We’re a really good team, we’ve proved that before. We have to change our mentality, be more brave, more aggressive. If the game is not in a good way for us, we have to make up for it. It’s all about making it hard for them.”

One thing that might help those starts is a brief reprieve from fixture congestion. The Whitecaps game marked the fourth straight the Sounders had played on short rest. Perhaps more than the fatigue, Atencio said it’s the way that impacts training sessions that took its toll on the Sounders.

With games coming every few days, the Sounders were mostly focused on re-generation sessions and any tactical changes were often implemented at walking speed. On Wednesday, the Sounders were able to play a full-sided, full-speed scrimmage for the first time in a couple of weeks.

“It makes a huge difference in my opinion,” Atencio said. “Soccer is a complicated game and small tweaks can lead to big changes. When you’re running tactics, you have to be able to evaluate it at full speed to see what’s going wrong and make changes as you go.”

Regardless of what has gone wrong in the past, the Sounders are well aware that all that matters is their performance going forward and that looking back only has so much value.

“You have to realize that every play has a lifetime of its own,” Atencio said. “You can draw correlations if you want and say they’re in a bad run of form or you can say they had a couple of bad games that happened to be in a row.

“Obviously we’re in a bad run of form, but every game we take as an opportunity to show we can be the best team in the league.”

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