SANDY, Utah—Joao Plata played 89 minutes on Saturday against the Colorado Rapids for Real Salt Lake, after missing three of the previous four games. He also scored against the Rapids, this time from the penalty spot.
A hamstring injury and some early-season playing time for rookie Corey Baird factored into Plata being an unused sub for three games and only playing 70 minutes on the road against Toronto FC, his former team, on March 30.
“There’s always room to get better at things, but yeah I saw a reaction from him,” Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke said of Plata’s performance.
As a forward, Plata is asked to put the ball in the back of the net, but Petke says it has been his defensive duties that have kept him from holding onto playing time. Watching Baird man his spot on the wing and come up with a goal and an assist in the previous two games in the Ecuadorian's stead, Plata knew he had to be better.
“As a player you’re always asked to look at the good things and the bad things, if I’m not playing, I have to look to be better,” Plata said. “We always as a team are trying to play together and defend as the midfielders and forwards and that’s why we train to get better and better each day.”
Petke recognized the effort, first in giving Plata the start and second in what Plata was able to do in his 89 minutes.
“I saw some good stuff from him,” Petke said. “Transition reaction from offense to defense, getting back into shape, being aggressive defensively, I thought we saw some of that in this game.”
With a healthy hamstring and scoring goals, it will be tough to keep him out of the lineup, but Plata isn't eager to be left on the bench again, frustrated that he can't make an impact for his team.
“I have my confidence back. I’m 100-percent right now. I need to keep working hard to be ready to play,” Plata said.