Aug. 29, BMO Field, Toronto, ON
Toronto FC 2 – Montreal Impact 1 (Att. 30,266-announced sellout)
Mere moments before kickoff, Sebastian Giovinco learned of his recall to the Italian national team for the upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Malta and Bulgaria, thereby attaining the first of three potential milestones on the Atomic Ant’s radar this season. In a statement released on the TFC website prior to the match, Giovinco commented on his selection by Italian Team Manager and former club coach at Juventus, Antonio Conte. “I’m very happy,” Giovinco said. “Given my performance, I kind of expected the call. It means we have worked well up to now. The hardest thing is to remain on the squad and I hope to keep playing this way. It’s important for me as well as all the other players. We have to win. They’re two very difficult games. But Italy has to win because of our winning tradition.“
And, while his day was cut short after only 50 minutes as a precaution, Giovinco still had a hand in one of the two TFC goals and indirectly influenced the second half sending off of Montreal captain Laurent Ciman.
Playing as a lone striker in a 4-2-3-1 formation for the second week in a row, Giovinco was isolated through the first quarter hour of the match as persistent pressing from the Impact forced several TFC turnovers in midfield and on the backline. That, in turn, meant that the three attacking midfielders failed to provide the necessary service to Giovinco and his runs didn’t produce any chances of consequence other than a hopeful heel flick that Impact keeper Erik Kronberg handled easily in the 13th minute.
A bit of misfortune at the half hour mark may have had a positive effect on TFC as French midfielder Benoit Cheyrou was forced to leave the game due to an ankle injury. That prompted TFC Head Coach Greg Vanney to send Jozy Altidore into the game, shifting from his initial formation to a more conventional 4-4-2. And almost immediately the new shape paid dividends.
In the 35th minute, Giovinco latched onto a loose ball in the attacking third, stopped and turned past a defender at the top of the box before laying off to Jonathan Osorio who, in turn, sent a low pass across the box that Michael Bradley sidefooted into the net to give TFC a 1-0 lead.
By now, the host Reds had picked up the tempo and, in the 45th minute, Giovinco took a short pass from Altidore and struck a shot from the edge of the box that Kronberg saved.
In first half injury time, Giovinco took a pass from Delgado but was tripped up by Ciman who was shown his first yellow card of the afternoon. On the resulting free kick from 25 yards out, Seba sent his effort just over the bar, bringing the first half to a close.
In his post-game comments, Vanney acknowledged TFC posed a greater threat to opposing defenses when both Giovinco and Altidore are on the field.
“We absolutely know that to get to where we want to be, they should both be on the field,” Vanney said. “Today when we initially brought Jozy on in the first half, we put him up front and we switched to 4-4-2. However, as we came out of halftime, we went back to 4-2-3-1 and Jozy was a bit more on the left side and it was only because Sebastian couldn’t continue that we rotated and pushed Jozy back up into the middle. But we saw a couple of moments in that stretch where they combined with each other. We just need Jozy to get to maximum fitness, to do the work like he did today, for 90 minutes, to help us on both sides of the ball when necessary. They’re a great duo. We’ve seen that through the course of the year. It’s just a matter of getting everybody in form and putting the pieces together.“
Giovinco’s contributions in the second half lasted all of five minutes before he appeared to pull up with an injury and walked gingerly off the field, replaced by Robbie Findley.
“Sebastian’s (issue) was some soreness in his adductor,” said Vanney after the match. “We’ve been treating it through the course of the week and he started feeling it progress a little bit in the game. It’s two ways, one get him off and not let it progress and the other is, obviously, protect him so he’s still going to travel to Italy and they will assess him when they get there and they’ll make a professional decision then.“
With left back Daniel Lovitz also exiting at halftime due to injury, Vanney had made all three of his substitutions by the 50th minute.
That wouldn’t be a concern, however, as TFC quickly went up by two goals just five minutes later as Altidore scored off the rebound of a shot from Osorio that had struck the post to the right of Kronberg.
The Impact reduced the deficit in the 74th minute thanks to a goal from ex-TFC winger Dominic Oduro, but the Impact’s ability to fight for an equalizer was hampered when, just 3 minutes later, Ciman was shown a second yellow card for a foul on Findley and was ejected from the match.
TFC would control the pace of the match the rest of the way and held on for the 2-1 victory.
Despite his brief appearance, the shortest since a 45-minute spell against New England, Vanney was complementary of Giovinco’s play. “His movement is always good,” Vanney remarked. “It’s always better when we have possession and we were having some breakdowns in terms of getting ourselves from back to front and getting into midfield in good spots. We were just not sharp enough so if the game becomes one where we’re trying to find Seba on the run behind the backline or where he’s having to compete with central defenders all the time for balls, it’s never going to really play into his hands, though he’ll find his moments here and there. But when we’re moving the ball well and he can pull off of defenders and get into wide spaces or get in between lines, then you really see his movement shine and today we weren’t our best with the ball and so his moments are not as consistent as they are when we’re good with the ball as a team.”
Vanney also speculated on the possibility of resting Giovinco when he returns from international duty. “He’s a tough guy, “ said Vanney. “As we get ourselves into the right positions, as we move forward and we accumulate some points, then we can start to make some decisions on guys in terms of whether we want to rest a guy here or there as we prepare ourselves for the final stretch. For now, we’ll see what this injury entails and how we can manage him with that and hopefully get him back into full form but today was an important win because it helps us maybe position ourselves to make some of those decisions down the road.”
Giovinco left immediately after the match Saturday night to join the 28-man Azzurri squad for training but on Monday the Italian medical staff determined his injury was severe enough that he would not be able to participate in the matches against Malta and Bulgaria so Giovinco left the camp in Coverciano and will return to Toronto.
Giovinco’s Key Moments:
13th – takes lob pass from Bradley inside box, tries one time flick, keeper saves
17th – takes pass from Delgado, tries quick pass to Osorio, keeper comes out to block
23rd – takes pass from Delgado wide right, crosses to far post, ball headed away by Impact defender
35th – steals ball, dribbles, passes to Osorio, who plays across box to Bradley, who sidefoots in for goal
37th – takes pass from Bradley, attempts shot but is muscled off ball
40th – plays nice 1-2 with Altidore who forces Impact defender to put out for corner
45th – takes short pass from Altidore, shoots from edge of the box, Kronberg saves
45+2 – takes pass from Delgado, tripped by Ciman, who is shown yellow; free kick from 25 yards just over the bar
5th – goes down with injury – leaves game – substituted by Findley
10th – Altidore scores off rebound after Osorio hit post
29th – Oduro sidefoots home from Romero pass back
Giovinco’s Key Stats: (via WhoScored.com)
Total Shots = 3
Shots on Target = 1
Touches = 17
Passes = 7
Passing Accuracy = 85%
Giovinco’s Match Rating:
6.5 – While his match was limited to less than 50 minutes, Seba was still influential in the buildup to the first TFC goal and linked up well with Altidore when the US international came into the match. His movement with both wide midfielders Osorio and Delgado was exceptional as his efforts stretched the Impact defense. Not a remarkable performance but, given the brevity of his appearance, it was a positive, workmanlike effort.
Sat. Sept. 5 vs Sounders at Seattle, Century Link Field -10:00 pm ET (Giovinco’s status: doubtful-adductor injury)
Next Home Game:
Sun. Sept. 13 vs New England Revolution, BMO Field – 5:00pm ET