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Player Profiles, #2: Joao Plata becomes unstoppable force with RSL

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2014 is the year Joao Plata went from an interesting piece to an undroppable player for Real Salt Lake. As our player profiles reach their conclusion, we're talking about the magic of Plata.

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

What a difference a year makes! Although Joao Plata played in fewer games than last year (26 to 29), his impact on 2014 was unmistakable.

In my article on Joao in 2013 I wrote: "2014 could be another great year for Joao Plata as Sabo will be out with the Costa Rico National team for the World Cup. He had excellent synergy with both Saborio and Sandoval during '13; if he can improve his teamwork with Findley as well he will prove to be a serious threat."

How happy was I that the comment proved true - to an effect, his synergy with Findley never really took off, and Sandoval suffered through his sophomore slump, but he WAS quite effective with Garcia, Saborio and Morales.

It should come as no surprise that Plata did best while attacking. The shortest player in MLS certainly was a serious threat, as his stats bear witness; he averaged over 2 shots per game for a total of 56 shots, 32 of those were on goal for an outstanding 57% target rate, and 2 of his goals were from headers! He racked up 6 assists (3rd most on the team) to go with his 13 goals, and made nearly 2 key passes per game, and an 82% pass success rate. It may be astonishing that for all of those 13 goals, he was only nominated for one Goal Of The Week (wk 28), but lost out to Diego Valeri.

Plata wasn't the greatest, but he did have some decent contributions. While he didn't block any shots or make any successful interceptions, he did make several successful tackles, and often and was able to use his speed to recover the ball. He received no Yellow or Red cards the entire season, but was fouled 23 times - 5th highest on the team, often leading to set pieces in dangerous locations.

For much of the season Plata was in the running for both the Golden Boot, and league MVP. In October Plata was profiled on KickTV, embedded below.

What will 2015 bring? We can expect that he and Saborio will continue to partner well, and given time that should extend to Sebastian Jaime as well. Teams are a bit more wary of him now which may lead to a drop-off in goals next year, but I predict his speed and footwork will still prove enough to reach double-digits. It's also likely that he'll continue to be called up for the Ecuador National Team, which means we'll lose him for a portion of the season unless MLS takes time off for the FIFA windows. All in all, 2015 should be very promising and productive for Joao Plata.

Editor's note: This is part of a series of player profiles recapping the 2014 season and previewing the 2015 season. Player ratings were compiled via a vote by RSL Soapbox writers. Statistics are via mlssoccer.com.