It's been a long four months, but Joao Plata is finally back on the field after suffering a fractured fifth metatarsal in his left foot in the first day of training during preseason in January. Now with three matches and one start under his belt, he is poised to hear his name announced with the starting lineup at Rio Tinto Stadium for the first time this season as Real Salt Lake hosts the Colorado Rapids in the first match in the Rocky Mountain Cup on Sunday (3 p.m. MT, ESPN 2).
Now, the author of 13 goals to lead Real Salt Lake last season has put those harrowing and often lonely days behind him. In the Salt Lake Tribune, he talked about that long road back and his coaches and teammates sang the praises of the diminutive Ecuadorian.
But it's more than just his goals that the club has missed.
"Any time you lose that amount of goals, it's not easy to replace," RSL Head Coach Jeff Cassar told Chris Kamrani of the Tribune. "But even more than that, it's his energy, his spark, his ability to create for himself alleviates a lot of stress."
One key figure in helping him stay focused on the mental side of his recovery was Javier Morales, who endured a lengthy rehab when he fractured and dislocated his ankle in 2011. Using the 35-year-old as a mentor, Plata stayed positive even in the most difficult of days.
To read the full story in the Salt Lake Tribune, click here.