Toronto FC’s 2012 picture is coming into focus as the team looks toward Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft.
On Wednesday, the team announced it had agreed on a multiyear extension with forward Joao Plata and, according to TFC director of player development Paul Mariner, defender Richard Eckersley is close to returning as well.
“Not done yet, but it’s getting close,” Mariner told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday from Kansas City ahead of Thursday’s MLS SuperDraft.
Both Plata and Eckersley were impact players as MLS rookies last season, but both were on loan deals and one of the club’s offseason priorities was to bring both back. Both players said they wanted to return to TFC. The announcement of Plata’s deal came on the eve of the SuperDraft, in which Toronto have two first-round picks, the fourth and 12th.
The Reds struck gold a year ago in the 5-foot-2 Plata, whom they selected with the 49th pick in the 2011 SuperDraft after he led the MLS Combine in scoring with three goals in two games.
After a season in which the Ecuadorian teen scored three goals with five assists in 26 league games and four goals with an assist in five CONCACAF Champions League matches, his selection appears to have been a steal. Plata scored twice when Toronto beat FC Dallas 3-0 on Oct. 18 to earn their way to the CCL quarterfinals.
“I don’t think there’s many teams who want to play against him at the present moment when he’s on his game,” Mariner said. “I thought he was excellent against Dallas; he’s very difficult to play [against].”
Mariner admitted that Plata’s size might have been a factor in his availability so late in the draft.
“Other people have their different checklist on players,” he said, “but I think the philosophy of the [TFC] coaches is that if he’s a good player, [it doesn’t matter]. ... Plata had tremendous explosion, tremendous pace, which is always difficult to deal with whether you’re 6-foot-4 or 5-foot-2.”