Real Salt Lake's quest to rebuild in 2015 has hit a snag just a few days into the preseason.
Joao Plata, one of the team's star performers in 2014, will be out three to four months after fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, the club announced Monday. The forward sustained the injury at the end of Sunday's practice at the club's headquarters in Sandy, Utah.
The news comes on the same day the club announced that it had signed Plata to a new, multi-year contract.
Interestingly, the club seems to heap at least partial blame for the injury on the playing surface, describing the fracture as having occurred via a "non-contact change of direction on artificial turf."
Plata emerged as a bona fide star in his fourth MLS season in 2014, scoring 13 league goals to go with six assists as Real Salt Lake made the playoffs for the seventh consecutive year.
The 22-year-old Ecuadorian's role was expected to grow even more this season, especially with Costa Rican strike partner Alvaro Saborio healthy and rested after sustaining, eerily, the same foot injury as Plata in a pre-World Cup training camp last season.
"It's a 'common injury' in our sport and has a fairly optimistic short timeline in terms of recovery and surgery," club technical director Craig Waibel told the Salt Lake Tribune. "Obviously it's disappointing anytime you lose a player, regardless who it is to an injury. At the same time, we like our roster, we like our options and we like the players that are behind [Plata]."
With Plata out, the candidates to take his place alongside Saborio include Olmes Garcia (three goals in 23 appearances in 2014), Devon Sandoval (no goals in 15 appearances in 2014) and Argentine Designated Player Sebastian Jaime, who joined the club late last season and failed to score in six appearances.