Joao Plata has been instrumental in any success Real Salt Lake has had since he was signed at the beginning of the 2013 season. With 24 regular season goals for RSL and starting his fourth year with the club, it wasn't easy to narrow down, but let's take a look at his top five.
5. May 3, 2014: RSL @ Chicago Fire
Any avid RSL fan may remember this game as one of the most exciting comebacks in recent history. RSL fell to a 2-0 deficit in Chicago, only to battle back for a 3-2 win in the dying minutes.
Plata tapped in the game winner in the 93rd minute when Alvaro Saborio sent in a cross from the far corner of the 18 yard box. Not only was it a fantastic goal, but the fact that it gave RSL the win at the end of the game made it that much sweeter.
4. March 19, 2016: RSL @ Portland Timbers
Plata has started the 2016 season off with a bang, scoring three goals in as many games. The most impressive of which came in the most recent matchup--the 2-2 draw in Portland against the Timbers.
In the 16th minute, Plata opened the scoring for the match on a beautiful curling free kick near the top of the penalty box. The shot sailed over the wall and into the top left corner, leaving Timbers goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey with nothing to do but watch it go in.
3. August 16, 2014: RSL v Seattle Sounders
Standing at 5'2", Plata is easily the shortest player in MLS. However, RSL fans will probably remember August of 2014 where he scored a header goal in two straight games. While the goal against Seattle may have been a little better than the one before it, any header from a guy shorter than Muggsy Bogues (there's a blast from the past) is insanely impressive.
Mulholland swung in a cross to the far post on a free kick, and Plata was able to lose his mark to fall back just enough to jump and have the ball land in the perfect spot. He connected with his head and put the ball flying in just out of Stefan Frei's reach.
2. October 4, 2015: RSL @ Colorado Rapids
Another stunning free kick marks my number two pick, as the left-footed Plata buried a right-footed shot in the upper left corner from roughly 25 yards out. It's an absolutely world class shot and there was nothing that Colorado 'keeper Clint Irwin could have done about it, even if he had time to react and try to make a save.
1. September 19, 2014: RSL v Colorado Rapids
Topping the list for me is another fantastic goal against our Rocky Mountain rivals--the Colorado Rapids--toward the end of the 2014 season.
This particular goal really shows some great team play in the buildup, that started with Sebastian Jaime who chased down a ball in the corner and got it to a trailing Plata. Joao then feeds it to Ned Grabavoy, who gives it right back to Plata, and then sends it back to Chris Wingert who was waiting a few yards back.
Wingert immediately feeds the ball to Grabavoy at the top of the 18 while Plata starts making a break toward goal. Grabavoy sends a beautiful backheel flick to Plata, who dribbles toward the middle and fires off a shot right in between two Colorado defenders. The ball flies past Colorado goalkeeper Joe Nasco, and bends perfectly into the top right corner.
The buildup on this goal was wonderful and really showed excellent passing, cohesive play from the team, and of course the incredible finish from Plata was the cherry on top. Not to mention it was the first goal of five that RSL would score that night in a 5-1 rout of the Rapids.
Of course, with Plata back to full health after missing a big chunk of time last season and looking to be back to great form, it may not be too long before there's a new number one to stick at the top of this list.