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Across the Pond: Building a squad

As the Joao Plata story rolls on, RSL shouldn't fret should he leave.

MLS: New York City FC at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Good teams are made up of players that, when working together, are more valuable than the sum parts. You can assemble any squad of players together and they will be able to play a game of football but those teams that go on to that next level are build around a tactical strategy and contribute to a shared mentality.

No matter the league or the country, that is a universal truth, and it's one of the reasons why I hate the term "underdog" when it comes to Leicester City winning the Premier League title. The truth is they were a squad built to excel in a direct and unrelenting style of play and they did it every week without much fail and nobody knew how to beat that until it was too late. It was flawless from them and it took time to build that squad around Jamie Vardy and his ability to score with the right service.

Which is why when the rumours of Joao Plata leaving RSL due to his unhappiness and interest in his services from Liga MX surfaced, I didn't get too worried. Plata's best season goal-wise was 2014 with 13 goals in 26 games alongside RSL legend Alvaro Saborio at a striker. I've always been sceptical about his move to the wing, and felt it was Cassar moving him to fit his formation rather than how Plata plays and his performance hasn't been setting the world alight over the last 12 months as the whole club has been in a transition phase. The recent turbulence with him is probably an indication of how unsettled he is at the club and if an offer comes that meets the valuation I'd be happy with him leaving the club.

See, in MLS, the mechanisms to move players around are so vast that you can turn your club around within a season if you have the right guy to build around. This season Real Salt Lake brought Albert Rusnak as a young DP, filling the void left by Javier Morales leaving the club, and described him in media rounds as a guy the club could build around for years to come. It may sound harsh but to me that means everybody else, bar a couple of guys, are expendable. If they can't support a style play that allows Rusnak to be the superstar he can be then however good they are, they don't fit with the vision of the club and are better served playing elsewhere.

Over here, that kind of culture doesn't really exist in most of the big teams. We're a league that spends big on world class talent to then crucify them in the media when they don't perform well in a squad that doesn't play their style. Titles are mostly won by overwhelming individual talent from a few star players and the financial stranglehold the top 7 clubs have over the other 13. If you're below the 50-point line, you usually don't have the money to build a squad who can win the title, an owner with the patience to do that or a manager with the vision to be able to (sometimes more than one of these). If you are over that line, you've a fan base so rabid and shareholders so keen to profit that a big signing is done as a show of strength and to bump up shirt sales more than anything.

Losing Plata would force Petke and co to dive into the mechanics of MLS to bring players in to build around a star they captured with money. Here in the UK, denting your budget means you may have to jump into the "bargain bin" as it's called for players: guys who you expect will come in for a season to be back up and hopefully keep you going for a while until more money comes in. In MLS, your options are much better. The trade mechanism is very powerful when you've got a star that's no longer needed in your team and another has his eyes on him and it's one that can often bring about a tactical shift too. So many players look to return to MLS that trading for rights can sometimes land you a player who can bring your team to a new level just by coming back and the talent available in youth systems all over the league is phenomenal these days. You simply don't have that in other leagues. You buy quality or you really don't get to compete.

If Plata goes, he frees up a spot in the starting line up, salary in the cap (the only real restriction teams struggle with) and pressure to field a quality player in a position he's not performed well in. Savarino seems to be the winger we've been looking for and Brooks Lennon has shown his talent from the wing too. They can give the service that Rusnak needs to be a consistent goal scoring threat and a target man who can hold up the ball (Yura for now although he too is out of sorts with his role at the club) would give the attacking unit of RSL a clear purpose. Only in MLS can this kind of transition come in the space of a season. You're not going to have that kind of hope to hold on to and excitement off the field in any other league in the world.

Change is scary, and watching your favourite players leave the club is hard. I was devastated when Will Johnson left the club and when I saw Jeff Attinella leave the club, I was wounded too. They are both quality players who I loved watching come out in Claret and Cobalt, so to see them leave was hard. Since Johnson left, we've made it to the finals of the playoffs and had a good run in the CONCACAF, so it was not the end of the world when he did. Plata leaving will be a loss of quality for sure, but if we have somebody who can perform in the places he would have been better, even if on paper they aren't as rated, then sadly his absence shouldn't be felt at all.