NEW YORK — The shortest player in MLS has claimed the biggest individual award of the week.
In his first career MLS start, 5-foot-2 Toronto FC forward Joao Plata earned the MLS Player of the Week award as voted by the North American Soccer Reporters after scoring a goal and registering a game-winning assist in a 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo on Saturday. It was TFC's first victory in league play since a 2-0 win over Portland on March 26.
After teammate Nick Soolsma earned a penalty in the 50th minute, it was the 19-year-old Plata who stepped up to take the spot kick and he buried his shot below the crossbar for a 1-0 Toronto lead. Then with 10 minutes remaining, the Ecuadorean winger put the game away with a seeing pass to Maicon Santos, who doubled the TFC lead on a goal that proved to be the game-winner.
Plata had seemingly earned a PK of his own in the 60th minute, racing into the box in a one-on-one opportunity against Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall. Referee Jorge Gonzalez initially pointed to the penalty spot after Plata hit the ground on the play, but after a discussion with the assistant referee, the call was reversed.
The Ecuadorean Under-20 national team player received rave reviews for his performances in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship semifinal series against FC Edmonton and TFC manager Aron Winter gave him his first start against Houston. Plata, the leading scorer at the 2011 MLS Player Combine before being selected with the 49th overall pick in the 2011 MLS SuperDraft by TFC, had played in a total of 63 league minutes before going 89 against the Dynamo on Saturday.
The native of Guayaquil, Ecuador, is the fifth newcomer to earn the MLS Player of the Week award after eight weeks of the MLS regular season.
WATCH: FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS - TFC 2, HOU 1
PLAYER OF THE WEEK WINNERS
Week 8: Joao Plata (Toronto FC)
Week 7: Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo)
Week 6: Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy)
Week 5: Luke Rodgers (New York Red Bulls)
Week 4: David Ferreira (FC Dallas)
Week 3: Camilo (Vancouver Whitecaps)
Week 2: Javier Morales (Real Salt Lake)
Week 1: Omar Bravo (Sporting Kansas City)