July 3, 2012
Plata a no-show for TFCPopular winger forcing team's hand over his return to Ecuador
By KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Joao Plata stayed true to his words. It appears Toronto FC did, too.
In a game of cat and mouse that began following Saturday’s match at BMO Field, TFC’s pint-sized winger showed his nerve Tuesday when he went against club orders and failed to appear at pre-match training at the club’s facility before it left for Dallas ahead of tonight’s match.
After divulging his intentions to leave Toronto for his former club this week, the 20-year-old winger made good on promises that TFC’s front office denied following last weekend’s tilt with New York — apparently deciding on his own that a move was in the cards, sending the team and the league scrambling to sort things out.
“You guys have seen rumours floating around. That’s what they are,” team executive Earl Cochrane said on Saturday. “Plata, today, is a Toronto FC player ... We’ve toyed with the idea and we’re continuing to think about whether we loan him out.”
Chalking up the fan-favourite’s departure to nothing more than momentary “rumours,” the club assured reporters that, despite watching Plata clear out his locker following the New York match, it hadn’t come to terms with any club to loan out a player it worked diligently to purchase in the off-season.
All the while, reports out of South America sent local media into a tailspin as they had already quoted Plata as being on the books at his former Ecuadorian club, LDU Quito — something that still wasn’t sorted out as of late Tuesday night.
“At the beginning, I did not want to give up because (Toronto) wanted me to stay,” Plata told Vive Deporte, an online Spanish publication. “I told them that I wanted to return to (Ecuador) and with them things are well ... I come to give everything to (LDU Quito).”
It’s a shame it appears he hasn’t given that same respect to the club that gave him a deserved chance in MLS.
Toronto’s friendly against Liverpool later this month will cap an exhausting stretch of 11 games in 36 days that started with a loss in Kansas City on June 16.
To make matters worse, tonight’s match in Dallas will be the third time in four fixtures the Reds will have played a club on at least a week’s rest.
So much for the league’s new unbalanced format cutting down on travel time.
But after battling to three draws and a win in Montreal, TFC is looking to accomplish something it hasn’t done in six years: Win consecutive league games away from BMO Field.
“It’s a work in progress,” head coach Paul Mariner said. “We’re a young back four, we’re changing the system, we’re trying to get our blocks and sometimes the guys just forget a little bit ... Like I said: All together.”
Dallas hasn’t won since April 14 and is facing injury concerns all over the park. Defensive stalwart Ugo Ihemelu (concussion symptoms) hasn’t played since May and has been replaced in the centre of defence by first-year pro Matt Hedges, a player the Reds just missed out on when the Hoops selected him a pick ahead of Toronto’s 12th selection overall in this year’s draft.
At the opposite end, the home side’s leading scorer, Blas Perez, is questionable with a leg contusion and could be a massive miss after having a breakout month with Panama in World Cup qualifying.
Considering their long layoff — the Hoops haven’t competed since June 23 — head coach Schellas Hyndman has had ample time to prepare his side for the changes Mariner has implemented since taking over for Aron Winter in June.
“They’re a dangerous team,” Mariner said. “I’ve got all the time in the world for Brek Shea. I think he’s a special talent. Danny Hernandez, who plays a holding role for them, is (Hyndman’s) right-hand man on the field. They’ve got some exciting players.
“Another tough game and another tough travel day. The same old ingredients. We’ve just got to roll our sleeves up and go.”
The Reds are 1-1-3 under Mariner and haven’t lost in four consecutive MLS fixtures. A win tonight would see them jump ahead of Philadelphia — where they play Saturday — and out of last place for the first time since opening day.
TORONTO FC AT FC DALLAS
Wednesday, 9 p.m., TSN
JEREMY HALL vs. BREK SHEA
Jeremy Hall of TFC returns to the city that sent him to Toronto in exchange for a second round pick in 2013. Viewed as excess in Dallas, Hall has had a good run of late on the right side of Toronto’s defence, proving to be one of the club’s top off-season acquisitions. Up against his sternest test since joining the Reds, the 23-year-old Tampa native will do the Texas two-step with U.S. international Brek Shea, who has three goals in seven appearances for Dallas in 2012. After surviving last weekend’s Thierry Henry test, Hall will need to be even better in Dallas if TFC’s back four is to keep Shea and Panamanian international Blas Perez — who could miss through injury — off the sheet.
TORONTO FC KEYS
HEAT ADVISORY: Forecasts are calling for temperatures approaching 38C today in Dallas. On its sixth game in three weeks, Toronto must conserve energy or risk crumbling like it did in Houston.
TURN THE CORNER: Holding the Red Bulls to a single goal was an achievement for an embattled back line that currently has Richard Eckersley playing out of position. Can what was once the worst back four in the business finally turn the corner and ’keeper another dangerous side from bagging multiple goals?
Needing three points on the final day of last October’s Champions League group play, the Reds walked away from FC Dallas Stadium with a 3-0 win thanks in part to Joao Plata’s two-goal game. As a result, the Reds opened the season with a quarterfinal fixture against the Galaxy.
Kocic, Hall, Eckersley, Emory, Morgan, Avila, Frings, de Guzman, Soolsma, Koevermans, Johnson.