TORONTO — Joao Plata got the message.
Toronto FC head coach Aron Winter had said he felt the 19-year-old Ecuadorian (above, middle) had not been playing well in recent efforts, part of the ups and downs that often come with being a young player.
Winter held Plata out of Wednesday’s CONCACAF Champions League preliminary match against Nicaragua’s Real Estelí until the 49th minute, when he was sent on to replace Gianluca Zavarise.
But Plata had an immediate impact on the game, forcing a save on his insertion. He then scored in the 56th and 72nd minutes to provide Toronto FC with a 2-1 victory that was more dominating than the score reflects.
“We started Gianluca because we wanted to keep the space very wide and high,” Winter said after the match. “And then you make a choice. And also the last games, Plata was not so sharp as the games before. And to give him that [push], to push him to be sharp. That’s why I brought him in in the second half.”
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Plata has been one of the bright spots of Toronto FC’s disappointing season. Winter liked the way he reacted to his first-half benching.
“Plata came in and did well, but not only Plata, most of the guys played very well,” Winter said. “Plata had a period … it’s also his age, he has his ups and downs and the last weeks he’s been a little bit down and, the moment he came on the pitch, he reacted well. Very well.”
His second goal off a free kick was a thing of beauty curling into the net. He had talked Ryan Johnson and Torsten Frings into letting him take it.
“Thank God it went in,” Plata said through a translator.
TFC make another deal
Toronto FC added their eighth new player in a month on Thursday when they acquired defender Dasan Robinson from the Chicago Fire in exchange for defender Dan Gargan and the club’s second-round pick in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft.
“We had an opportunity to acquire another defender and provide depth for our club,” Winter said in a statement. “I’d like to thank Dan for his contributions to our club, but we felt this was a move we needed to make. Dasan brings us depth and versatility because he can play central defense or right back.”
Robinson, 27, was selected in the second round (22nd overall) in the 2006 MLS Supplemental Draft from the University of Dayton. The native of Evanston, Ill., had appeared in 85 games (73 starts) for Chicago, scoring three goals. This season he has played in five matches, starting two.
He adds experience to the back line. It helps that Robinson can play in the center. Winter went with a couple of youngsters in Wednesday’s game in Doneil Henry and Ashtone Morgan on the back line. He prefers to have his younger players ease into competition and when they start to be accompanied by more experienced players.
The way the team is made up now, Robinson has a better chance to do that. Last month, Henry had to start at center back because injuries had depleted the position. Now, the 18-year-old says he appreciates the veteran presence around him on the pitch, including the leadership of newly signed midfielder Frings, who has fit in so well he was made captain on Wednesday and should wear the armband for quite a while.