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Joao Plata's nose for goal the catalyst to Real Salt Lake's hot start

SANDY — At the rate he’s scoring, Joao Plata might need to spend time rehearsing some new dance moves for his goal celebrations.

After Saturday’s game-winner against Colorado, he’s now scored in four of five matches this season and is tied for the MLS lead. He’s already equaled the goal total from his injury-riddled 2015 season and looks poised to surpass his career-high of 13 back in 2014.

Plata’s production has been the catalyst to Real Salt Lake’s 3-0-2 start this season year.

“For me it's good. I feel great. It's why we're training hard every day. We got three points, but we know we need to keep going and I look forward to the next game,” said Plata.

Plata’s goal in the 72nd minute against Colorado was a simple finish into an empty net, but the way it unfolded was the direct result of Plata’s hot start and the anxiousness it created for Colorado’s defenders and keeper.

It should’ve been an easy clearance for the Rapids, but the quality of Javier Morales’ long ball created panic along the backline and the opportunistic Plata cleaned up the mess for the game’s lone goal in the 1-0 victory.

He immediately broke into an infectious dance near the South goal much to the delight of the Rio Tinto Stadium patrons.

“He works hard every day and he has quality in his game. Now he's on a roll,” said RSL captain Kyle Beckerman. “Every time he comes to the stadium, he believes he's going to score. That's a great thing to have on your team. He's flying with confidence. I think we all the belief too that if he has a chance he's going to bury it. It's similar to 2014 and it looks like he's on the same type of form as then.”

RSL coach Jeff Cassar praised Plata for the variety of ways he’s contributing.

“He's doing it with free kicks, he's doing it through the run of play, he's getting assists and passes and free kicks, so he's kind of doing it all right now,” said Cassar. “I think he's enjoying himself. I think he's obviously fit and you can see that explosive part of his game back.”

That explosion seemed to be missing for most of last season even after he returned from the broken foot he suffered on the first day of the preseason.

The injury kept him out for the first 11 games last season, with the team going 3-3-5 over the stretch. Even after returning it took him 10 more games before he scored his first goal on July 18 against Houston. The confidence he displayed in 2014 never really returned, though.

That’s not the case this season.

“One thing Joao wants to do is score. And obviously wants the team to do well, but he's hungry to score goals and that's what you want from a forward. I think he's enjoying himself and enjoying the soccer right now,” said Cassar.

Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: