Despite a stellar start to his 2014 Major League Soccer season, Joao Plata is now added to the ever-expanding list of injuries early on for Real Salt Lake. The 22-year-old forward tweeted Monday morning that he will miss three weeks with the left hamstring injury he suffered in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against the L.A. Galaxy at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Chasing after a long ball with L.A.’s A.J. DeLaGarza Saturday, Plata pulled up and grabbed at the back of his left leg, which turned out to be a hamstring strain in the 28th minute. He received treatment and returned to the field to give it another go before being subbed off in the 36th minute for forward Olmes Garcia. The Ecuadorian assisted on Alvaro Saborio’s 19th minute goal against the Galaxy, leaving him with two goals and two assists in three matches in 2014. Per RealSaltLake.com, Plata is currently the only player in the top-five in MLS in both goals and assists.
“Not sure how long it’s going to be,” said RSL coach Jeff Cassar Saturday after the home opener, “but it’s a little concerning.”
Plata joins Robbie Findley (off-season knee surgery) and Devon Sandoval (broken foot) as three of RSL’s five forwards dealing with injuries. Chris Schuler, Javier Morales, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Aaron Maund and Sebastian Velasquez have all dealt with injuries already in 2014. RSL’s depth will continue to be tested as the only two healthy forwards are Saborio and Garcia. Youngsters Benji Lopez and Jordan Allen — who missed last week with an ankle injury suffered against San Jose on March 15 — could see time up top if Plata, Findley and Sandoval miss more time than anticipated. But the partnership formed between Plata and Saborio proved to be a successful one in the first two matches of the season and nearly 30 minutes into the home opener against L.A.
“He’s a dangerous player, so you knew that was going to be a big loss,” said defender Tony Beltran. “Plata’s been hot the first two games and it hurts to lose him.”
Nat Borchers said the season is too long to start becoming frustrated with all the club’s injuries.
“I don’t think we’re going to get too fired up about it,” he said. “Hopefully Plata is able to rehab and come back quickly and we’re able to fill the gaps.”
Cassar said RSL would prepare for Toronto FC’s sole visit to Rio Tinto this year by working on getting Saborio and Garcia acclimated with one another up top in training this week.