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The Salt: Deconstructing Plata’s potential exit

Is the time right for a Joao Plata move?

MLS: Western Conference Semifinal-Real Salt Lake at Sporting KC William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports

You never really get used to players leaving your club.

I firmly believe that. At least, I believe it for me. Despite my having written about Real Salt Lake for eight years (we’re coming up on seven here at RSL Soapbox), writing about an important player’s departure still carries with it a bit of weight.

Over the years, there have been plenty of those. Real Salt Lake was a continuity club for many years, and that meant we had a knack for developing club legends. Their departures, timed well or not, had an impact.

But sometimes, writing about a departure can also feel quite empty or, in some cases, deflating.

Some notable examples, for me:

So it’s rare that I feel like I have a chance to really contemplate a player’s departure. We know that we’ll have that opportunity with Nick Rimando at the end of the year, and presumably, it’ll happen with Kyle Beckerman at some point in the next two years.

We didn’t know Joao Plata was leaving — not really — but the writing was very much on the wall. (Well, as of writing, we still don’t know that, but as you can tell, I’m very much operating under that assertion. I should clarify here that the club has no comment regarding this matter, so I’m not just sitting on this with confirmation, waiting for it to break.)

So that all makes this kind of a weird one. We’ve had time to contemplate his departure because the team, it would appear, has made the preparations. He’s no longer involved in starting lineups, for one reason or another. His substitute appearances have been sparse and short. That signaled to me that Plata’s time at the club was limited.

In a way, that actually rather guts the question I wanted to ask today: What do we do if Joao Plata leaves the club? In this case, I actually don’t think much — if anything — changes.

Now, one or two injuries to our wingers could have forced us to re-evaluate our thoughts here. He might have been forced into the lineup. That’s no longer an option, so it’ll open up playing space for others. It may spell a definitive attacking future for Brooks Lennon. It may, instead, mean that we’re going to look for players in July when the transfer window opens.

The real question: What’s next?

So I guess this actually leads me to a different question: What do we do with the salary impact that is left when Joao Plata leaves? It seems awfully crass to do this before he exits the club, but I’m going to do it anyway. If you think I’m wrong to do that, skip to the next section heading. I don’t know what it’ll be about as yet, so, uh, yeah. That’s an insight into my writing approach.

So, the question. That number is likely around $700,000, which would probably be bought down for a DP-level salary impact with targeted allocation money. That’s enough, I suspect, to sign an MLS-tier winger, should that be what we’re interested in. It’s basically enough to fill any position on the field with a top-quartile player in this league. Is it enough to find a top-five-percent player? I don’t think so, unless you get lucky by signing an undervalued player. Certainly, that can happen.

Maybe this sort of money could be best spent spread around the team, giving a bit of a boost to other players. Maybe it could be spent bringing home an academy player over in Europe. I don’t know — I’m speculating. Regardless, I think it’s clear by this point that the financial implications are not necessarily slim.

If this sort of departure becomes a trend for the club, or if a number of talented players leave in the summer, I’ll be worried. But this one move? It makes a lot of sense for both the player and the club. I’ll be eagerly awaiting to see what happens, should Plata move. Will he be successful in Liga MX? I sure think so, and I’d like to watch and find out.

Could RSL utilize Plata?

This is a big question that I’ll be thinking about this week. I think, in a way, that Joao Plata is no longer a great fit for this team, and it’s not because he’s not playing as a second striker or some such. For me, it’s because any position he plays is going to be asked to engage in a high degree of defensive responsibility, and the way we play under RSL coach Mike Petke often forces us into awkward situations. We need players who can wholly commit to defending and do it successfully, and that applies in basically every position.

Plata is capable of doing that on occasion, but I think to say it’s not his preferred state is a bit of an understatement. He’s a player who thrives when he can attack, and when he can float free of defenders, and when he can really express his creativity on the field. Those are not things we’re giving him now, and for that reason, I can understand why he’d be moving.

Still, there’s a non-zero part of me that’s wondering if things could have been different, should Plats be in a system that fits him more tightly


I don’t have much in the realm of off-topic musings today, honestly. So let’s open this up to you: What have you been reading lately? Watching? Listening to? Engaging in? Speculating about?