For a time it looked like Joao Plata would be one of the many MLS players to try his hand in Liga MX after his relationship with Mike Petke started on rocky ground. His form dipped and with it so did the rest of the teams performances. Thankfully, this is one story that had a happy ending and Plata managed to find his form once more and go on to do things like this:
Composure, Speed, Finishing, Elusiveness, Positioning. These are the things that come naturally to the 25-year-old striker-turned-winger. It’s a deadly combination in a attacking line up and that’s without the complimentary cast of characters like Rusnak and Beckerman around him.
A hip injury cost him three games at the start of the season and he only missed another 2 league games for the rest of 2017 for Real Salt Lake. Primarily playing on the left hand side of Petke’s 4-2-3-1 (but coming in on the right as well), Plata has managed to create quite a good rapport with Savarino, Acosta and new signing Albert Rusnak which has meant the ball moves around much faster that it has in the past, helping Plata notch up 7 goals and 5 assists.
The only thing I will add in here is I still believe Plata is better suited to be a out and out striker. He’s still yet to match his 2014 high of 13 goals and 6 assists when he was playing mainly as a striker in a 4-4-2 formation. If Plata can reach that kind of production again out on the wing or Petke can find a way to have him play in the middle of the park again, I think RSL would have to be in the 2018 Playoff talk within the first few games.
Plata will be back next season and will play an important part in the team. I don’t see anybody unseating him in the LW position he’s been deployed in and RSL wouldn’t be so short sighted that they would sign a DP level player to replace a player like Plata in the starting line up. If he can perform as well as he has shown he can, Real Salt Lake might end up with the most deadly wing duo in the league.