Joao Plata might be back on Saturday.
Yeah, we're all excited about that — and we have been since he did his little reveal — but there's something more to it. We shouldn't just be excited because Plata is an exciting player that can score goals, but because he brings qualities to the side they've been lacking.
When we look at how Real Salt Lake has been playing, we can see that they haven't always been fantastic in creating chances. With Plata's return, there's a greater chance of that coming back to RSL.
Javier Morales is — fairly obviously, we hope — the key in creating chances at Real Salt Lake. We don't expect that to stop, honestly. If we look at Squawka's 2014 MLS stats (and they use Opta as their source), we see that Morales contributed 2.94 key passes per match. Joao Plata contributed just over twice as many, with 1.6 key passes per match. This was a consistent factor in our successes in 2014 and 2013 — players creating chances.
Real Salt Lake has struggled to do that this year, and Joao Plata could be the one to boost everyone back to their old state. The only player contributing more than one key pass per game at current? Javier Morales with 1.83. Well behind him is Kyle Beckerman at 0.82, followed by Luke Mulholland (0.73) and Tony Beltran (0.55).
It's easy to get excited about Plata's goalscoring potential, and there's plenty to that. But if he doesn't come back scoring, don't worry — the more important measure is that he helps the team create more opportunities. With that, more opportunities will emerge for him to score regardless.
Whatever happens, though, RSL will want to get more involved in positive possession play. That's been one of the big disappointments so far, and the team has talked openly and frankly about that.
While we've been trying to diagnose RSL's troubles for the last few weeks, it's probably just time to get excited about the options on deck — because if Plata's back, and if Javier Morales has recovered from his concussion, things very quickly could get a lot more interesting.