You remember Joao Plata, right? He was the guy that had some nice moments over at Toronto FC a couple years ago, got off to a slow start in 2012, went back to Ecuador on a loan and was traded to Real Salt Lake.
At the time, it was fair to wonder if MLS simply hadn't figured him out. He wasn't a big guy -- he's listed as 5-foot-3 -- and didn't seem to be much more than an energy player that you could insert into games.
Maybe it shouldn't be such a surprise, but he's making a lot of people rethink their assumptions this year. Plata picked up a pair of assists on Saturday to lead RSL to a 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps. In the process, he moved into the MLS lead with four assists. He's managed to do all this while playing just about 430 minutes, meaning he's averaging .83 assists per 90 minutes. That's a big number, in case you're wondering.
Both goals were the product of good vision and superb touch. It's worth noting, he also interplayed with Javier Morales wonderfully on each.
On the first, Plata received a pass from Morales on the wing. He took one touch and lobbed in a cross that hit Luis Gil in stride. Gil was able to head back across the goal, off the far post and in.
The second goal played out similarly, as Plata took a pass from Morales. This time, though, it was more of a give-and-go, as Gil hit Morales as he was streaking into the box. Morales hit it first time past a diving Joe Cannon.
While it seems highly unlikely that Plata can keep up this rather ridiculous pace, he has at least shown that he's perfectly capable of playing in this league. Maybe he won't be a guy who can stand up to 2,500 minutes. But he's going to produce in the time he does have. For a team like RSL that is especially keen on finding ways to score without Alvaro Saborio, this should be seen as a rather significant development.