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Bob Bradley admits some LAFC players are “mentally not where they need to be”

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MLS: Los Angeles FC at Real Salt Lake Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

It had been more than two years since the last time Los Angeles Football Club lost consecutive MLS regular season games, but that statistic popped up again Sunday after a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders that was in many respects more of a blowout than the scoreline suggested.

While LAFC improved their energy and were able to connect passes better than in their previous game, a loss to the LA Galaxy a week earlier, three separate miscues in defense and goal led to the Sounders running roughshod over the black-and-gold, and head coach Bob Bradley admitted the two losses may not be a blip.

“A very difficult stretch,” Bradley told reporters postgame. “You can see we have a lot of guys who are not in good form and mentally are just not where they need to be.”

The hurt started 11 minutes in, when Sounders forward Raul Ruidiaz hit a one-time blast from way downtown on a counterattack. With LAFC goalkeeper Kenneth Vermeer standing on the edge of his 6-yard box, he had no chance to stop the shot, although Bradley did not blame Vermeer on any of the goals, instead pointing the finger at defensive breakdowns before the plays got to him.

“It’s a really bad first goal to concede and then you can see that mentally hit some guys right away, with their heads down,” Bradley admitted. “We talked at halftime — we felt we had to be a little more aggressive in the final part of the field, get into the box, take guys on a little bit more. And then we had just a terrible two minutes in the second half.”

With the games coming thick and fast, and against perhaps the toughest regional group in the league, LAFC don’t have time to hope they get back in a groove, which Bradley acknowledged.

“A tough stretch for us, and with so many guys you can see confidence, mentality and form — things that we’ve got to find the right ways to get back,” he said.

When asked about the team’s forward line, which in this game was Diego Rossi, Bradley Wright-Phillips returning to the starting XI with Carlos Vela out injured, and Brian Rodriguez, the manager credited Rossi, who scored LAFC’s goal, with fighting through to make an impact on an off night. Bradley was more critical of the other attackers.

“I think Diego tried: He found ways to be outside, he found ways to be inside. Didn’t start the game at his sharpest but kept going, rewarded with a goal. I don’t think Brian had a good game...For us to be at a good level, we need Brian to play better than he has played of late. And then I don’t think it was Brad’s best game. He did really well in Orlando and then tonight I don’t think he was so sharp.”

Bradley didn’t bring up injuries affecting the level, with Vela out and Eduard Atuesta “weeks away” from a return after suffering a foot injury in Orlando, as well as Danilo Silva both getting a rare start and needing to be substituted out before halftime due to a hamstring injury.

Instead, Bradley pointed the finger at the players’ headspace and trying to get everyone focused during a very trying year.

“Since we’ve returned, I think the level has slipped a little bit in training,” Bradley said. “It’s something different for this group, where all of a sudden it’s not coming so easy. You heard me speak after the Galaxy game — we just didn’t play well. Tonight I thought we started out OK but when we conceded a poor goal you could see a little bit of the way guys put their heads down. There’s never excuses. We set the bar high. But it’s still an interesting period with the day-to-day part with players, because with everything that’s going on in their lives and in the world, lately we’ve tried everything we can to keep guys fully engaged and you can just see that some of them are not. That’s the responsibility of the coaching staff, to find different ways to keep everybody going during a difficult period, both on and off the field.”

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