Plata shines as RSL sink Sounders

JoaoPlata (USATodaySports)

By TYLER GRAY

SANDY, Utah. – Joao Plata captured lightning in a bottle twice in a row and led Real Salt Lake to the top spot in the West.

Real Salt Lake squared off against the Seattle Sounders in front of a capacity crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium Saturday afternoon and fought to a 2-1 victory. An own goal and a header from Joao Plata were enough to overcome a Chad Barrett strike in the 72nd minute.

Plata nearly broke open the floodgates in just the second minute but after dribbling through a few Seattle defenders, his shot from the top of the box was saved by Seattle goalkeeper Stefan Frei. In fact, Plata was close on a number of occasions throughout the first period but was unlucky to put one away.

It only took eight minutes into the second period, however, for the shortest player in Major League Soccer to put his stamp on the match.

RSL earned a free kick on the edge of Seattle’s box in the 53rd minute. Midfielder Luke Mulholland served a ball up to the back post where Plata was lurking. The 5-foot-2 forward headed the ball firmly into the back of the net to give RSL the opening goal.

“I couldn’t believe it was him again,” Beckerman said. “He can score goals from any way and he has shown that this year. Left foot, right foot, and now with his head. He’s a special player. We’ve been leaning on him for goals this year and we’re going to continue to lean on him. I think he’s got a couple more in him, with his head or with his feet, it doesn’t matter. He’ll find a way to get it in.”

Wingert was quick to point out that he knew Plata had this in him the whole time.

“I told my dad this last year; [Plata] only had a few goals, and I said, I’m telling you – this guy is a finisher,” Wingert said. “We see him at practice every day and of course there is a difference between finishing in games and finishing in practice, but you can see how he strikes the ball, so to be honest it’s not a huge surprise to me.”

Plata was integral in RSL’s second goal as well, making the interception that keyed RSL’s attack.

After collecting the ball, Plata played the ball towards the top of the box to midfielder Luis Gil. Playing at the top of the diamond in Morales’ absence, Gil played Mulholland in who appeared to get a toe to the ball to put it into the back of the net, although the score was classified as an own goal for the Sounders.

“It’s not just the goal scoring, which of course is the name of the game, but [Plata] is an animal of a competitor,” Wingert again said. “I mean, I just love the way he competes. Like everything, his attitude. He’s on fire just as soon as we get into the huddle – he’s even like that with ping pong. But he’s an absolute monster. I mean he’s scoring on headers now.”

Seattle made things interesting in the 72nd minute when forward Chad Barrett was able to clean up a misplayed clearance from RSL’s defense making it 2-1, but it wasn’t enough as RSL held on for the win, stretching their unbeaten streak to six matches.

“These game really are six-pointers the rest of the way,” RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said. “You can really start putting some distance from other teams.  Right now, we are six points ahead of Dallas – that’s an important game.  It’s a massive game.  There are less and less available games to play.  I think guys are starting to smell it, and feel it.”

With the win, RSL take sole possession of first place in the Western Conference for the time being. They next head to face FC Dallas in another pivotal Western Conference clash.

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18 Responses to Plata shines as RSL sink Sounders

  1. Neruda says:

    Mulholland has been fantastic this year. Meanwhile 5’2″ plata with the header. Oh and Schuler did really well against Dempsey at the end. A nail biter of a game.

  2. njrb says:

    RSL another packed house. This team really needs to be recognized for their attendance, how they’re are not mentioned with the likes of Seattle, Portland, Vancouver and TFC is beyond me. No love whatsoever.

    • Just saying says:

      LA has 20k plus all the time as well.

    • Shawn says:

      I always thought of it like this

      Seattle
      Portland
      SKC
      RSL

    • reignman says:

      Seattle is really in its own tier when it comes to attendance, they have about a 20k lead on any other team. Would be interesting to see how much Portland could fill given a larger capacity.

    • Chodilicus says:

      RSL has sold out almost every game this year but only fits just over 20k. Rumor is they are planning on expanding the South stands to fit a few thousand more. Galaxy get nice attendance, but have a 25k seat stadium and usually get just less than 20. RSL has a strong enough fan base to easily fill another 5,000 seats.

      However, there are some other cities who have more impressive fan bases.

      1. Seattle
      2. Vancouver
      3. TFC
      4. Portland
      5. RSL

      Then SKC and LAG also have nice support on a regular basis. What is nice for the MLS is that there are at least 10 teams in this league that regularly sell out or get 20k plus. The fan support is really nice and the collective fan IQ is starting to catch up.

    • Peri says:

      I’m not so sure about this – i saw an awful lot of empty seats on the broadcast. I know it was an early afternoon start, but I don’t think you can make claims for love when good seats in the first five rows are empty.

      • njrb says:

        Looked pretty filled up to me, not an rsl fan just notice that the games I watch are pretty much packed

      • njrb says:

        Youre right actually, for some reason I didn’t notice it. Usually not the case with RSL and like you mentioned coulda been the early start.

      • Zach Hampton says:

        The stadium was packed but it was hot and the empty seat holders were up under the shady bits of the stadium watching from there.

  3. Limey says:

    A lot of people show up to watch The Seattle Slide…

  4. reignman says:

    Seattle hasnt played a good MLS game since before the WC break, Sigi needs to figure it out quickly because they just arent clicking. It took being down 2-0 for Seattle to wake up at all, thats not acceptable.

  5. Chodilicus says:

    RSL midfield looked really good but it was really hot with the 12:30 MT kick. It was around 95 degrees with the sun really baking the field. Yes, there is no humidity, but clearly both sides really slowed down after about 60 minutes as the pace of play really stalled.

    My other big impression, Yedlin has a lot of growing up to do. He was acting like a fool for much of that game and just did some really classless and childish things off the ball and after the whistle blew. He had a blatant time wasting in like the 8th minute of the game where he went out of his way to run off the pitch, grab a ball and throw it back on the field to slow down RSL and kill the flow of the game. Honestly, it was embarrassing to the game the way he played today. Alonso did the same types of things, but we fully expect it from him.

    • reignman says:

      If we are going to talk about time wasting here you need to also include some of the stuff RSL was doing. It was taking beckerman a realllllllly long time to put the ball back in play near the end.

      • reignman says:

        Also you are right about Yedlin losing his cool a couple of times, like when he launched the ball into the advertisement board. Picking up yellow cards for that kind of stuff is not acceptable

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  7. El Gato says:

    Joao Plata is going to be a hell of a player. He’s been on the up the last couple of years and this is really turning into his break out year