SANDY— When Real Salt Lake got its first look at Joao Plata in Claret and Cobalt, the speedy forward came on as a substitute and recorded his first assist within minutes. That was back on March 2 when RSL beat San Jose 2-0 in its regular-season opener.
Flash forward to Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, and the 21-year-old dished out a pair of assists in a 2-0 result over Vancouver.
Up to now, Plata has recorded four assists for the club.
"I'm happy with the assists, but it's most important that the team won," said Plata on Saturday.
The young Ecuadorian also finished the game with five shots, the majority of them coming in the final 10 minutes of the match. Scoring goals is something the forward hopes to start doing soon, but for now Plata can enjoy living in the moment as his team prepares for Wednesday's game at New England.
"I try and I try, but it didn't go in. But I'm happy for myself and the assists and for the team winning the three points. We're not going to rest," said Plata.
RSL coach Jason Kreis opted to employ Plata with Devon Sandoval last weekend, which in reality was the best option for RSL given the injuries of Alvaro Saborio (quad), Robbie Findley (knee) and Olmes Garcia (abductor). Though the tandem of Plata and Sandoval didn't produce any goals or assists in the opening half, Plata was the benefactor of a brilliant Nick Rimando clearance that led to his third of four assists in the second half.
"In the first half he was pretty darn rusty — gave away a lot of balls. In the second half, things opened. I think he made a lot more better decisions with the ball," said Kreis. "We had a chat at halftime about how important it was to us."
AILING BORCHERS: Not even being under the weather stopped Nat Borchers from logging 90 minutes this past weekend.
The unsung hero of the Vancouver match, Borchers saved a Corey Hertzog deflection that was inches away from equalizing the match in the 62nd minute.
"In some of those situations it is really just emergency defending," said Borchers. "We let Hertzog get in behind us that time and I just followed up with the play and that’s what you have to do sometimes to get the ball out."
Immediately following the heroic save, Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie opted to pull Camilo out of the game for Kekuta Manneh. Had Vancouver equalized, its high-risk attacking game could have possibly taken a backseat as it tried to hold out for another draw versus the Claret and Cobalt.
Instead, Borchers cleared the ball off the line and RSL went on to win 2-0.
NO EXCUSES: While RSL looks forward to a three-game road trip, including two games this week, Rennie gave no excuses for Vancouver's performance having played three games in one week.
"I mean, if you want to make excuses, yeah it does because you don't get much recovery time while the other team is resting all week," said Rennie. "And in the second half we did look tired. But I don't want to really be giving people excuses at this point."
Meanwhile, Kreis and his players will be departing Monday morning to the East Coast to prepare for Wednesday's match at New England.
"We wake up tomorrow, and we focus on the next game," said Kreis after Saturday's win. "For me, it was very good, but we need to build off of it. There's still room for improvement, and we're going to need improvement if we're going to get results in the next two matches on the road."
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