Joao Plata en accion ante Real Salt Lake
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Eckersley, Plata want extended stay with Toronto FC

TORONTO – Defender Richard Eckersley and forward Joao Plata both said Monday they are keen to stay with Toronto FC, and the feeling from TFC is mutual.

Plata (above) and Eckersley were both on loan to Toronto FC during the 2011 season, but head coach and technical director Aron Winter said he is trying to keep them.

“Of course, we’re going to try to keep them because we’re now in discussion with [Major League Soccer] and with the teams,” Winter said Monday at the club’s end-of-season media conference. “We got them on loan but we have to wait. We’re going to try to keep them, at least.”

Both first-year players in the league were among the positives on a squad that missed the league playoffs for the fifth year in a row. However they did help to salvage the season by reaching the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals to be played next March. Toronto qualified last Tuesday by beating FC Dallas 3-0 with Plata scoring twice and assisting on the first goal by Danny Koevermans.

Eckersley, 22, is on loan from the English League Championship side Burnley. Meanwhile Plata, 19, is on loan from LDU Quito in his native Ecuador and he made telling contributions for TFC, scoring three goals with five assists in 26 league games. Plata flourished in CCL play, adding four goals in five games as Toronto progressed. Eckersley played 23 league games, 22 of them starts, and six CCL games as he became a crucial member of the solid Reds defense, which gave Winter’s side the platform to lose just twice since the start of August.

Plata is hoping to extend his stay at BMO field, after enjoying an encouraging second half of the season.

“We’re definitely working on [staying with Toronto],” Plata said Monday through a translator. “I love the team, love the city and I really hope to be here next year. My agent continues to talk with both teams. I’m hoping for the best. I hope to be here next year.”

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The young Ecuadorian also spoke highly of playing for Dutchman Winter.

“[He] was also a world-class soccer player so there’s a lot to learn from that,” Plata said. “Aside from that, on a personal level, he’s a very personable coach. He get’s the best out of you and I’m very happy with what he’s brought to the table.”

Eckersley, a Salford, England native, said he has not heard from his parent club and has gained a lot from his spell at TFC.

“I’ve got 18 months left on my contract at Burnley,” Eckersley said. “I’ve enjoyed my time [with Toronto FC]. It’s a great club. I think it’s going in the right direction so I think any player really, if you’re with a club like that, you want to stay. I think they’ve showed a lot more interest in me than Burnley. I have to respect that.”

The lack of communication from Burnley has left Eckersley mulling over his options on both sides of the pond.

“That’s what is probably the most disappointing thing because I don’t know, to be honest.” Eckersley said. “They’ve invested money in me and they don’t care. I don’t know. They’ve not contacted me and that’s it.”

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