Welcome to Partially Obstructed View. We are each restrained by the limits of our own perspective, but when we meet to share information a clearer picture of the truth can be revealed. Comments & criticisms are welcome.

Wednesday 6 March 2013

First Person View - Will Toronto FC Regret Letting Go of Joao Plata?

    It should come as no surprise that we here at POV are big fans of the little Ecuadorean sparkplug.

    His departure from the club last season, on loan to LDU Quito following a rather bizarre series of announcements and denials, was a blow to the morale of Toronto fans who held the diminutive speedster in high regard.

    Given the way the club responded to his forcing of the move – he prematurely announced his return to his homeland on twitter – it was always evident that Plata would never again be seen in the club’s colours at BMO Field.

    The question at hand, I suppose, is did the club receive too little from Real Salt Lake - only a second-round pick in the 2015 SuperDraft - in return?

    Or to put it another way, was this a move made more of ego and spite than of the rational, economical processes more befitting an MLS roster?

    Plata looked good during the preseason – whatever that is worth – scoring and setting up a second in a 2-2 draw against New York in Tucson in only his third appearance for the club, while still not fully fit – it was rather early in the build-up after all.

    He then backed up those glimpses with a game-changing performance in the final half hour of Salt Lake’s season-opener in San Jose, spurring the side to a 0-2 victory, beating the defending Supporter’s Shield winners and ending their eighteen-match unbeaten run at Buck Shaw Stadium.

    Platito entered the fray in the sixty-fifth minute for Robbie Findley; six minutes later Salt Lake took the lead.

Plata, stationed on the left-side of midfield, corralled a long-ball out of the back from Kenny Mansally, by the halfway line; he took on touch to take it down and with another hit a lovely, weighted pass into the path of the streaking Costa Rican striker, Alvaro Saborio.

    Sabo strode towards the bouncing ball, waiting for it to drop just right; his first touch was to lash his finish past Jon Busch in the San Jose goal.

     It was then Plata’s pestering that led Ty Harden – another former Red – to rush a clearance for a throw-in.

    That restart eventually led to Salt Lake’s second goal. Plata made wide run when Kyle Beckerman was in possession at the top of the box – the American showed some guile, staring across at Plata to give the impression he was the natural next target of the buildup – before poking the ball through to Saborio for his second.

    It was not all grand in his debut, if the chalkboards are to be believed – I find hard numbers should be taken with a grain of salt in a game still new to being quantified – he was still guilty of some of the problems that plague his game.

    His attempt on goal was wide – saw a lot of that in Toronto; he still enjoyed a gratuitous dribble – thrice unsuccessfully; and was five times caught in possession and tackled – though he did win a tackle and make four recoveries – the in-fashion stat of the times.

    Though much has been made of his inconsistency, with Paul Mariner classing him as one of those one-in-six kind of luxury players that the club simply had too many of, it should be remembered he is still only a young professional, especially in MLS terms, with plenty of room for growth.

    And though MLS may be a physical league, there is always room on the pitch for players with that touch of creativity; they make the game beautiful after all.

    Sometimes in order to create, one must take risks. Those risks created chances.

    His performance away to FC Dallas in the Champions League is often highlighted as the best of his short spell – no disputing that, it was great.

    But, some may recall – and a personal favorite – was how he had his way with Philadelphia’s right-back Ray Gaddis in the first of half TFC’s only win under Aron Winter last season.

    Plata took a boot to the face from the rookie defender in the early stages before proceeding to taunt his opponent with his pace and skill on the ball. Gaddis was nearly sent off for a second yellow card and was removed before half-time, for an apparent strain.

    To the chagrin of many, Toronto has always been a very British team, both on the pitch and off it.

    Run down a list of players, both past and current – Dichio, Brennan, Robinson, Eckersley, O’Dea, Earnshaw – all cut their teeth in Britain. Have a look at the front office staff – Johnson, Carver, Cummings, Mariner, Nelsen – all similarly sourced.

    Why this path was chosen is a matter for another discussion, but perhaps, given the style inherent, whether intended or an unintended consequence, Plata was never likely to stick in Toronto.

    His drafting coincided neatly with the – failed – Dutch revolution at Toronto, and though fans in this city have always preferred those classed as grafters to those considered graceful, he combined both, in the marvelous improbability of one so small playing so large.

    Here’s hoping that Salt Lake’s possession-based, pass-and-move style more suits the man’s talents and provide a better system within which Plata can flourish.

    ‘Tis a pity there wasn’t room for a little of that in Toronto.

    Time, of course, will tell whether a draft pick was an acceptable price – recall he was a very late pick himself (Third Round, Forty-Ninth Overall in 2011) - and hindsight has a tendency to make fools of us all, but regardless, he will be remembered fondly for his brief time in Toronto and should he continue to change matches as he did on Saturday, his departure will be a stick with which others will be beaten.

    Best of luck to you Mr. Plata; good night my friend, the Plata.


  1. As noted on twitter, somewhat reminded of the DeRo->Celtic state of affairs. Same kind of thing happened at the time, lots of denials from the front office, until photos showed up.

    DeRo didn't last too much longer with the team after that... oddly.

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