Joao Plata en accion ante Real Salt Lake
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TFC Notes: Plata becoming cornerstone for Toronto

TORONTO — In a season of changing on the go for Toronto FC, 19-year-old Joao Plata has been one of the few players to remain with the club all season.

The Reds hope the relationship with the Ecuadorian, currently on loan to MLS from LDU Quito, will last even longer.

“Of course,” head coach and technical director Aron Winter said when asked if he wants to keep Plata beyond 2011. “We’ve got another couple of months. One thing is sure, Plata is still young. We’ve given him the opportunity and we’re going to try to keep him. And the development he has made in a short period has been great.”

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Toronto selected the diminutive Plata 49th overall in the 2011 SuperDraft, and he has emerged as one of the team’s most dangerous players. In fact, he is one of the main reasons the Reds reached Group C of the CONCACAF Champions League.

Plata has scored three goals with four assists in 21 games, including 16 starts, in his first season in MLS. He scored the lone goal in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Real Salt Lake.

His work in the preliminary round of the CCL was even more impressive. In the first leg against Real Estelí of Nicaragua, he came on as a second-half substitute and scored twice in a 2-1 victory.

The forward also scored a goal on a penalty in Toronto’s 2-1 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps on July 2 in the Nutrilite Canadian Championship final that put them into qualifying rounds of the CCL.

No Frings against Tauro

When Toronto FC open their CCL Group C participation on Thursday vs. Panamanian side Tauro FC (8 pm ET, Fox Soccer), they’ll do so without recent acquisition and veteran midfielder Torsten Frings.

The former German international is suspended for the match because he picked up two yellow cards during the preliminary round against Real Estelí. That makes fellow veteran Julian de Guzman a likely starter for the Reds.

Backstopping conundrum

When Toronto FC departed for Panama City on Wednesday morning, no decision had been announced about the starting goalkeeper for Thursday.

Stefan Frei missed Saturday’s win over Real Salt Lake with a leg injury that is not considered serious, and backup Milos Kocic, who started both games against Real Estelí in the preliminary round, made his first MLS start of the season in Frei’s place on Saturday. Kocic got the shutout in the 1-0 win over RSL in league play at the weekend.

Winter had originally said that Frei would be out for another week, but didn't rule out a quick comeback.

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