TUKWILA, Wash. – As if to drive home the point of why the Seattle Sounders are choosing to hold a significant chunk of preseason in Spain, players were treated to yet another rainy day of training on Monday. This was the fifth time they’ve trained outdoors since preseason began and all but one day has been below freezing, raining or a combination of both.
Still, the Sounders haven’t let that detract from the sessions. An emphasis early on has been on varying up the attacking patterns, while maintaining the positional play they instituted last season.
In addition to getting some better weather, João Paulo thinks having the ability to simply focus on tactics – as opposed to rushing to get ready for a competitive match the way they had to last year – will be one of the big benefits of training in Spain.
“We’ll have more time,” the Brazilian midfielder said. “We can do the things with more patience and enjoy the process. We rushed a little bit [last year] because of Club World Cup and compressed our a time a little bit.”
João Paulo also admitted that being able to just focus on soccer is another benefit of leaving town.
"I have two kids, so when I go home it’s tough to get the rest," he said. "We have the rest component, food, everything we need to get a little more into the process."
João Paulo is the oldest player in the central midfield by about a decade. It's not hard to imagine a scenario where he almost resents the younger players that are effectively gunning for his job.
He has just the opposite perspective. He believes it's literally his responsibility to help get the younger players to that point.
"This is a huge part of the vets’ job," he said. "It’s not 'come here, train and go home'. We need to try to teach them what we’ve learned from our years in pro soccer. For me especially, having a lot of young guys, to give advice. It helps them grow up."
Plenty of minutes to go around
While João Paulo has never been a player who has willingly come out of a match early, that could be something we see more of this season. That's not so much due to the 32-year-old's fitness as much as it an acknowledgment that his position group is pretty deep with players who need to get minutes. As things stand now, Josh Atencio (21) will likely start alongside him, but Obed Vargas (18), Danny Leyva (20) and Sota Kitahara (21) are also expected to be in the mix.
"The coaches' message this year is about how everyone will have their chance to play and it’s about us making that happen, making it a hard time," he said. "The message from Preki is to be patient when we get the ball, the angles. I think everyone is in the right mental shape to do this role. Unfortunately only two guys are going to play. If it’s not here, it will be somewhere else. This is a good school for all the young kids. They’ll be ready."