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.