Philadelphia Union v Toronto FC

Real Salt Lake completes acquisition of Joao Plata from Toronto FC

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After a year away from Major League Soccer, 20-year-old attacker Joao Plata returns, though he’ll do so in a new location. With today’s trade between Toronto FC and Real Salt Lake, the former LDU Quito attacker moved to the Rockies in exchange for a 2015 second round pick. He joins a talented RSL attack that includes Alvaro Saborio, Javier Morales, Luis Gil, and the recently returned Robbie Finley,

It’s still a bit of a strange move, one that sees two organizational narratives collide. Toronto has acquired a reputation for being a bit of a wayward ship, with former D.C. United architect Kevin Payne brought in to right its course. Real Salt Lake, on the other hand, has been model organization. At least, they’ve been considered one ever since winning MLS Cup in 2009.

Both narratives, to the extent they can be believed, are worth considering when evaluating the deal.

Toronto FC as a dysfunctional place – That’s not necessarily my personal point of view, but it is still the narrative, and when you see a player whose capable of playing for a South American power the LDU Quito reconsider his North American move and temporarily return home, you can’t help but wonder what’s going on in Toronto.

Now under new management, the Reds have traded the 20-year-old attacker to Real Salt Lake for a pick that’s unlikely to get them the value Plata delivered at No. 49 in 2011. The move may be the product of philosophical shifts or new decision-makers getting what they could for a player who didn’t figure into plans. Regardless, Toronto’s just parted ways with a talented player, and part of the situation comes down to organizational uncertainty.

Real Salt Lake can save these players – When Kwame Watson-Siriboe and Kenny Mansally provided valuable depth to last year’s team, RSL reaffirmed a growing reputation for taking other teams’ talent and getting the most out of it. Nat Borchers, Kyle Beckerman, Nick Rimando, Chris Wingert, Ned Grabavoy – all of these players are valued contributors, yet none of them started with Real Salt Lake. With Aaron Maund, Cole Grossman and Lovel Palmer joining this offseason, Jason Kries has another class of players who could revitalize their careers in Utah.

Plata has yet to have an MLS career to revitalize, but while in Toronto he showed the potential to be an above average player. With Fabian Espindola traded to New York, Real Salt Lake as a place behind Alvaro Saborio for a player with Plata’s skill set. He’s somebody that could both combine with Javier Morales as well as win balls knocked down by Saborio. If he plays through the middle (as opposed to out wide, as he did with Toronto), Plata could see an uptick in goals.

This all assumes he plays, but he has the talent to do so. For whatever reason he left Toronto, it’s not hard to imagine Plata not having some success in Salt Lake.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.