Joao Plata tweets he is leaving Toronto FC
Ecuador forward Joao Plata appears to have Toronto FC in his rear-view mirror. The MLS club, however, insists that he remains in the fold, although he could be headed out for a loan spell.
A Plata tweet Saturday night suggested the five-foot-two, 135-pound speedster was on the move.
"It has been a pleasure playin 4 Toronto FC. I want 2 give much thanks n luv 2 the fans 4 all the support during my time here. Love Plata!!" said the tweet.
During halftime of Saturday night's 1-1 tie with the New York Red Bulls, Earl Cochrane, the team's director of team and player operations, told reporters that Plata "today is a Toronto FC player."
But he said the team has taken calls about the 20-year-old Plata, from clubs in Ecuador and Mexico.
"We've toyed with the idea and we're continuing to think about whether we loan him out," he said.
"The fact that we've got some depth in that position allows us to even entertain this," he added.
A club spokesman, reacting to the Plata tweet, said after the game that Cochrane's assessment remains the club line.
Plata has two more years on his MLS contract and Cochrane called him a "great asset" that the team does not want to lose.
"Loaning him out would allow him to go and continue development but it would free up some space for us to get a player who we probably think we would need more," said Cochrane.
Toronto FC has spoken about the need to beef up its defence.
Plata, who is currently sidelined with a hamstring injury, has seemingly fallen out of favour recently
The leading scorer at the MLS Combine in 2011, his lack of size appeared to scare many clubs off. But Toronto sent the Chicago Fire a player to be named later for the 49th overall pick to grab Plata and the diminutive winger rewarded them with some electric runs at goal.
He has three goals and five assists in 36 games over two seasons and became a fan favourite.
Toronto coach Paul Mariner, at his post-game news conference, was clearly annoyed that Plata seemed to be dispensing news himself rather than allowing the club to take the lead.
"I love that when 19-year-old kids come in and tell the press what's going on," he said sarcastically of Plata, who is actually 20. "Isn't that a wonderful situation for me to be in?"
Cochrane, meanwhile, said there was nothing to report on veteran Italian defender Alessandro Nesta other than he was a player whom they had discussed internally. Earlier in the week, Mariner called Nesta "one of our targets."