US Open Cup: Joao Plata may not be overjoyed with sub role, but Real Salt Lake happy to reap rewards

SANDY, Utah – Real Salt Lake defender Carlos Salcedo may be psychic, or a visionary, or maybe he just had a good feeling about the US Open Cup semifinal against the Portland Timbers.

Salcedo correctly predicted that teammate Joao Plata was going to score with a place in the final in the balance. What he didn't predict was that the Ecuadorian's goal would prove to be the game-winner in RSL's 2-1 win that means they’ll host the Open Cup final against D.C. United on October 1.

" Yesterday we were talking about Christian “Chucho” Benitez, the [Ecuadorian soccer player] who died," Salcedo told reporters in the locker room following the game. "And he was like, 'I was the only Ecuadorian who hasn't scored [since the death].' I was like, 'You are going to score this week, you'll see.' When he scored, he came up to me and hugged me and said, 'You were right.'"

Plata came on as a substitute in the 61st minute, something that has been happening quite a bit lately, including three of the team's last four MLS games. It isn't a role he has completely embraced yet.

When asked if it is difficult to come off the bench Plata answered: "Of course. Because you need to try to be fast in the system and help everyone right when you come in, but we won, and that is all that mattered."

Plata has been so good coming off the bench lately, that it has put his coach in a bit of a conundrum.

"I feel really awkward about this because Joao has played very, very well now for about six weeks," Jason Kreis said in his postgame press conference. "[He] really has done just about everything we have asked him to do; deserves to be probably starting in a lot more matches than he has in the last six weeks. But what he has done is he's come off the bench and provided us a spark every single time he comes on, and been really, really effective in that role.

"I want to make sure that that role is valued because it is really important, obviously, to come in and change games and have the effect that he did and score the game-winner. So it's an odd situation that we can look at it negative one way. I think he would maybe look at it negative because he would like to play more minutes and start every game, but you can look at it another way and say he is doing an incredibly effective job for us off the bench."

With an opportunity for hardware looming in less than two month’s time, Kreis wasn't the only one singing the diminutive 21-year-old's praises, either.

"He's been amazing," defender Nat Borchers said. "When he played with Toronto, I personally wasn't very impressed. But he has come to our team and stepped up his game. That was just a massive, massive goal for us there in the second half."

Stay connected: The official MLS app keeps you connected with the latest news, highlights, scores, standings, and analysis all for FREE. Download for iOS (Apple) or Download for Android