The Curious Case of Joao Plata

Plata's days with Toronto seem to be over but can the club get some value for him? - John E. Sokolowski-US PRESSWIRE

Toronto FC has many decisions to make in the coming days and weeks but one of the most interesting ones will involved Joao Plata and trying to figure out what to do with the pint sized winger.

When it comes to Joao Plata's status we know a couple of key things but there are a whole lot of questions that are yet to be answered. The most important thing that we know is that he is still a Toronto FC player despite being out on loan to LDU Quito. We also know that Toronto paid a substantial transfer fee to permanently transfer him from LDU Quito to Toronto following his successful 2011 season.

Now the question that Toronto's management team needs to figure out an answer to is how can they get the best value out of Plata. Since returning to Ecuador to play this summer the 20 year old has struggled to make a real impact appearing in only 8 matches so far. That kind of performance is not going to have clubs lining up to try and acquire his services from Toronto FC so it may be hard for the club to recover that $500,000 transfer fee that they reportedly paid for him back in January.

If selling him would mean a loss for the club that might make the option less attractive to the management team. The other option is to try and bring him back to play for Toronto again. Having him back at BMO next year would certainly make fans happy but based on the way that he made his exit it would be a stunner to ever see him play in Toronto again.

When the rumours first broke that Plata was returning to Ecuador the club denied them. The club continued with their denials until after Plata had already been unveiled at LDU Quito and long after the player had tweeted about his exit from Toronto. The club suggested that they had be working on a deal to send Plata back to Ecuador but it seems that he left before the deal was done and would likely face discipline action for leaving early without permission. It all sounds like it was a bit of an ugly saga (nothing new at TFC of course) and makes it hard to imagine a way that the bridge could be repaired.

At the end of season press conference Earl Cochrane confirmed that he intends to head down to Ecuador to meet with Plata and watch him play. Cochrane pointed to the fact that when Plata first went down he struggled a bit and it took him a while to get into the team before getting hurt. He is back playing again now and they plan to meet with him in the coming weeks. Cochrane said that he wants to see how the player feels about coming back to Toronto since he is still under contract with the club for another couple of years. He claims that they intend to pick the best environment for Plata and make a decision about where that is in the next couple of weeks.

Cochrane's comments sound like he plans on going down there and asking Plata if he wants to come back to Toronto and then going from there. It does not sound at all like a situation where the club had any control over what is going to happen but instead they are being held to the whims of a 20 year old player. It is a situation that does not look good for the club or the player and it would appear that the best environment for Plata is going to be somewhere other than Toronto.

Add in the fact that the last time Plata played a minute of MLS action for Toronto FC it was in the 1-0 win over Philadelphia back in May. That game was significant because it was the last MLS match before Paul Mariner took charge of the club. Plata did not leave for Ecuador until early July so that means he was with the club for five league matches under Paul Mariner and did not get a single minute in any of them. There can be little doubt that he was not a key piece of Mariner's plans but was instead very much one of Winter's men.

It all adds up to suggest that Joao Plata will not be coming back regardless of what Cochrane suggested in the end of season press conference. The best environment for him will not be rotting in the reserves under Mariner so that just leaves the question of where they can send him and what they can actually get in return for him. They could send him back to Ecuador and probably take a good loss on the fee that they paid for him less than a year ago, they could loan him back to LDU Quito again allowing them to hold onto his MLS rights, they could sell him to any other club that might be interest and again likely take a substantial loss on the fee they played, or they could try to find another MLS club willing to pull off a trade and take a chance on the talented but inconsistent winger.

It looks like Toronto is stuck in another no win situation but it will be interesting to watch and see if they can actually get some value for the player or it they end up just cutting and running like they so often have in the past.

Leave a comment and let us know what you would do about Plata if you were in Cochrane and Mariner's shoes.

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