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Why RSL missed Joao Plata against Portland, and how they can thrive without him

Jaime Valdez-USA TODAY Sports

Joao Plata is almost certainly one of the more important players in Jeff Cassar's figurings in the newly deployed 4-3-3, despite never having played in it.

His injury during the first day of training meant he didn't get a chance to get his feet wet in the setup, which was a bit of a shame — it's perfect for him, after all. He could play on either side of that 4-3-3, given his ability out wide, and he could — in a pinch — play at the top as a (and I hope this isn't a curse word yet) false nine.

Some reasons we missed Plata follow, and they're certainly not comprehensive. You'll note that we've left out his dancing routine, which we enjoy and missed, but a little part of me suspects that's not tactical.

Calmness on the ball

If there's one thing Olmes Garcia isn't, for all his good qualities, it's the image of calm on the ball. Joao Plata, on the other hand, is, and if we'd had more of that in our play, we could've avoided some of the hairier moments where we simply cleared the ball.

Drifting centrally

Joao Plata tends to move into central positions at times, even when he's playing out wide, and that would've meant greater opportunities for the midfielders to find a player with a pass. Part of the difficulty, especially with the midfielders consistently having trouble getting the ball to wide players.

Combination play

When you need a player who can provide smart combination play with someone like Javier Morales, Joao Plata is your guy. Even with a new formation, it's probably the case that those two would continue to thrive together. We'll have to see it to really get a sense of it, but that's something to be excited about.

Now, just because we didn't have Joao Plata for a match doesn't mean all is lost. This much should be obvious. Olmes Garcia, while a little raw, looked heaps better than he did a year ago. Sebastian Jaime struggled to get involved, but there simply wasn't much combination play going up the right side at all.

We missed Joao Plata, and we'll miss him for a little bit longer. But with any luck, we'll learn to thrive without him — and when he comes back, we can be even better.