Giovinco and the Reds clinch a spot in the MLS Cup finals over bitter derby rivals in one of the greatest games in MLS history.
November 30, 2016
Toronto FC (5) Montreal Impact (2) 7-5 on aggregate
Weather: Rainy 9 C/ 48 F
Toronto FC and the Montreal Impact were coming off a 5 goal thriller in Montreal, field issues aside it was a classic. Facing a 3-2 deficit is tough for any club at any level but fighting back with two away goals showed resolve and “grinta” like the franchise has never seen. TFC needed a 1-0 or 2-1 scoreline to advance to the final, and playing at home would certainly be an advantage. The reds led by la Formica Atomica stormed out of the gate in the first 15 minutes dominating possession and squandering an early glorious chance.
Justin Morrow sent in a cross to Giovinco in the middle but the diminuitive Italian tripped over himself and the defender point blank in front of goal. Momentum swung after that as Montreal hit back on the counter. Bologna loanee and fellow connazionale Matteo Mancosu sent in former TFC midfielder Dominic Oduro who slotted it home from the right side. Things were looking grim but TFC kept its composure and fought back. In the “””minute a Giovinco corner wasn’t cleared and Armando Cooper deposited the ball into the net to tie things up. Game on. At this point TFC needed another goal to go ahead on away goals, and they soon got it. A clever little corner sent in by Giovinco was headed home by Altidore in the 44th minute.
The next 45+ minutes were something out of a psychological thriller. It was arguably the best half in MLS history and certainly a turning point in Canadian soccer. Sloppy play at the back resulted in Ignacio Piatti, one of MLS’s best players to slip through and poke home the tying goal for Montreal. Now it was Toronto who would be out, Montreal lead 5-4 on aggregate. TFC did not waiver in the slightest. They took hold of possession and pressed high taking advantage of the massive gaps Montreal’s defence left open. It was one of these gaps on the left side that led to the cross for Nick Hagglund’s, towering header to make it 5-5 on aggregate. The subsequent action was end to end offense, both teams have showed throughout the season they could score. Bodies falling left and right as tackles came flying in from both teams.
There were accusations of time wasting from TFC players, tension was at an all-time high. Altidore, and Ricketts failed to score on glorious chances while Giovinco missed a free kick in the 78th minute. Then 8 minutes into extra time, to the horror to TFC supporters, la Formica Atomica had to be subbed off holding his right leg and hobbled off the pitch. Veteran Benoit Cheyrou was subbed in his place and stunned even himself when, just a minute later, his diving header gave TFC a 4-2 lead in the game and 6-5 lead on aggregate. 70 seconds later in fact TFC sealed the deal when Altidore’s cross was tipped home by Tosaint Ricketts sending BMO Field into ecstasy. Final score was 5-2, 7-5on aggregate as TFC ended 10 years of futility by becoming the first Canadian team to play for the MLS Cup.
Coach Greg Vanney spoke to the press regarding Giovinco’s substitution: “Seba was cramping up and felt he couldn’t do anymore so he asked to be subbed off. He’ll be ready for the final”
Giovinco himself also confirmed, “If I had continued to play it would have only harmed the club so I felt I needed to be subbed off. You could say I got the assist because of the substitution (for Cheyrou’s goal). Cramps are not a big deal I’ll be fine tomorrow.”
On his team’s chances in the final, “We still have one more game to go against a great team. Tonight we celebrate a hard fought win against our rival and focus on Seattle tomorrow. We’ll be at home though so we’ll have the edge. We want to do great things for this city.”
Giovinco also added, “We’re a side that can score at any time. We can score a lot of goals and that’s what makes us most dangerous. We’ll be ready on December 10.”
Giovinco’s Key Moments
5’ Giovinco misses way wide on the game’s first free kick
7’ Giovinco misses a point blank chance in front of goal after tripping over himself
36’ Giovinco’s corner is eventually put in by Armando Cooper after a deflection in the box
44’ Giovinco’s corner finds Altidore who heads in the ball. Giovinco’s second assist
70’ Giovinco heads the ball on goal forcing an excellent save from Impact keeper Bush
78’ Giovinco’s curling free kick from outside the box just misses the near post
85’ Giovinco’s through ball finds Ricketts who shoots weakly and can’t beat Bush
94’ Giovinco is substituted for Benoit Cheyrou after cramping up his right leg
Giovinco’s Key Stats (via Opta)
Shots = 4
On target = 1
Chances created = 6
Touches = 53
Passes = 14
Passing accuracy = 64.3%
Giovinco’s match rating 6.5
Giovinco was blanketed in the first half by Marco Donadel and Laurent Ciman limiting his range and creativity but as the game wore on the Atomic Ant became more involved. Giovinco assisted on both goals on corners, and had a few chances himself including a great header and a decent free kick. His passes spread open a tired and out of place Impact backline and could have garnered a few more assists had his teammates finished more clinically. His substitution gave everyone a scare but fortunately he was alright and should be good to go for the final. He will most certainly be counted on to bring TFC their first ever title.
Road to the MLS Cup- Playoff Stats
Goals = 4 (tied 3rd)
Assists = 2 (tied 3rd)
Shots = 31 (1st)
Shots on goal = 12 (3rd)
Giovinco’s Next Game:
Saturday December 10 vs. Seattle Sounders – MLS Cup Final @ BMO Field Toronto, 20:00 EST