Unorthodox deal for Plata gives RSL depth in striker corps

If his four preseason showings are anything to go by, Joao Plata is starting to look like a handy pickup for Real Salt Lake.

The 20-year-old Ecuadorian forward has started all of the the training and friendly matches he's played, going roughly an hour in each of them. He scored in the opening minute of a 2-2 draw with New York, and helped set up the other.

If the club can continue to get that kind of production from the 5-foot-2 forward, the deal that sent a 2015 SuperDraft second-round pick to Toronto FC to acquire his rights will have been a steal. It was no secret Plata did not wish to return to Toronto after finishing up a six-month loan to his original team LDU Quito in Ecuador, and after parting ways with Fabián Espíndola, Paulo Jr. and Emiliano Bonfigli, RSL had plenty of space and need for another attacker.

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So when RSL general manager Garth Lagerwey's hotel room phone rang at 1 am on the night before the 2013 SuperDraft, with members of Toronto’s front office downstairs at the hotel bar wishing to discuss a way to make it happen, Lagerwey jumped at the chance.

“We were looking for a young forward, a young, talented young player to come in, and I think he fits that,” Lagerwey told MLSsoccer.com. “I had heard he was interested in leaving, so when they called, I got up and went down to see what they had to say.

“We went and sat down on a couch and talked about some scenarios, and by 2:30, we had it all worked out. I went back up to my room and wrote out a couple of e-mails to get it down in writing, and things worked out.”

Plata joined the forward crew of returning leading scorer Álvaro Saborío and Robbie Findley, with second-round SuperDraft pick Devon Sandoval joining them on the roster Tuesday.

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“We are always looking for opportunities to improve our team. If that means that I have to get up and go to a bar to get it done, I’ll do it,” added Lagerwey. “Trades don’t always have to come exactly by the book. We are constantly talking with other teams, and if there is something that comes up that we think can improve our team, we’ll talk about, and if it works out financially and with contracts, we’ll do it."

And despite having put together a new-look forward corps, Lagerwey insists isn't done wheeling and dealing quite yet.

“March 1 is the deadline [for roster submission]. We have I’d say between two and five different things to decide on or move on before then,” he continued. “We probably aren’t done with everything yet. If something else pops up, we are always open to taking a look.”