Sept. 19, BMO Field, Toronto
TORONTO FC V COLORADO (Att.: 19,692)
After suffering three consecutive losses, the latest a 2-0 defeat to NYCFC at Yankee Stadium in midweek, TFC returned to BMO Field to face the Rapids in what was widely regarded as a must win game for the Reds if they were to maintain a grasp on a playoff spot. Inspired once again by the scoring exploits and inventiveness of Sebastian Giovinco, TFC stormed out to a 3-0 lead before eventually securing three points from a 3-1 final result.
Giovinco started on the forward line alongside Jozy Altidore in a 4-4-2 formation and very quickly established his presence in the 7th minute when he collected a pass from Marky Delgado, dribbled past a defender and struck a shot that fell just wide of the Rapids goal defended by Clint Irwin. Only four minutes later, Giovinco stepped up to strike a free kick from 35 yards. The audacious attempt sailed over the wall but was blocked by Irwin and cleared momentarily before falling to Michael Bradley who shot high.
TFC’s quick ball movement allowed them to find gaps between the Rapids lines and the persistent pressure paid off in the game’s opening goal after just 14 minutes. Giovinco took a pass from Robbie Findley just inside his own half, eluded a player at the midfield stripe and ran the length of the field unmolested before unleashing a right foot shot from the edge of the box that Irwin couldn’t squeeze. The ball slipped underneath the keeper and into the net for Seba’s 18th tally of the season.
TFC head coach Greg Vanney was surprised that Giovinco was given the space to stride almost 50 yards toward the Rapids goal. “It was interesting because he got on the break,” Vanney said, “and he started sprinting forward with the ball and it was almost like they were sprinting into their own goal. He got close enough to where he was able to get the ball on his right foot and in shooting range and he just let it go. I was a little surprised that they backed off so much.”
Just four minutes later, TFC doubled the lead. Benoit Cheyrou sent a ball through the middle to Jonathan Osorio who played a clever backheel to an onrushing Giovinco who took a touch before bending a shot to the left of Irwin and into the back of the net for his second of the game and 19th of the season.
By the midway point of the first half, TFC were dominating possession and controlling the ball for long stretches at a time. Giovinco would become provider in the 36th minute when he floated a cross into the box that Jozy Altidore headed just wide of the post.
Just a minute later, Seba collected a long pass from Cheyrou, beat a defender and charged into the box but his shot was deflected wide for a corner kick.
On the resulting corner, Giovinco lifted the ball to the near post where defender Damien Perquis was positioned to head in past Irwin for TFC’s third of the game.
The hosts got sloppy in their own end in the closing stages of the first half, conceding a corner, which resulted in the Rapids’ only goal from Dillon Powers.
A light rain welcomed the players as they entered the field for the start of the second half. But that turned into monsoon-like conditions moments later and some players began slipping on the slick turf. The downpour didn’t faze Giovinco however as, on the hour mark, he went on another penetrating run from inside his own half, starting wide on the left flank, then cutting into the middle before he was tripped up by Rapids’ Lucas Pittinari who earned a yellow card. Seba hit the resulting 30-yard free kick just over the bar.
Moments after that, as the intensity of the rain diminished to a light drizzle, TFC keeper Chris Konopka punched away a corner right into Giovinco’s path. The Atomic Ant was about to break downfield with the ball but was fouled by Rapids’ captain Sam Cronin, who also earned a yellow card for the infraction.
Then, in the 82nd minute, Seba stole the ball from Juan Ramirez, sprinted past Bobby Burling in the box and attempted a cross but the ball struck his plant foot and rolled out for a goal kick.
In the 85th minute, Giovinco appeared to have been held up by Burling but, strangely, referee Mathieu Bourdeau called the foul against the TFC forward. Giovinco reacted with rage towards the game official and had to be restrained by teammates. It was the last action Giovinco would be involved in as he was immediately replaced by defender Eriq Zavaleta. Giovinco’s angry protests prompted Vanney to make the substitution quickly before things got out of hand.
“He was frustrated that he holds a guy off and he’s looking to go to goal,” Vanney explained, “and somehow the foul is on him so he was baffled as I was at some of the things going on and it turned into frustration. Part of the reason we got him off was he was getting quite fiery on a number of levels and he’s not a guy we want to lose in upcoming matches.”
Seba left the ground to a standing ovation from the appreciative home crowd. In his post match comments, Giovinco was critical of the officiating but didn’t necessarily expect preferential treatment. “I feel there were a few times when the referee may have got it wrong but that’s part of the game,” said Seba. “We should all be treated the same but when you are being limited by continuous fouls then it’s different but yes, everyone should be treated the same.”
“He’d prefer to be protected a bit more over the course of games,” said Vanney when asked about the rough treatment Giovinco received throughout the match.
“It was a question of having the right mentality,” Giovinco added, “and I think from that point of view we played a good game. It wasn’t easy because we came from a difficult period but we bounced back and we’re going to enjoy this win.”
With Seba leading or challenging in every major offensive statistical category in the league, speculation continues about his candidacy for MLS MVP. Vanney has no doubt the Atomic Ant is among the frontrunners for the award.
“I would think he’s at the top of the list,” said Vanney, “and it’s not a very long list he’s contending for so I think he’s there. He’s proven that throughout the course of the year and he proved it again tonight that he’s that guy. But in order for him to win it, we all need to be good and he needs to continue the form that he’s on.”
Seba remained noncommittal when asked about the possibility of becoming league MVP. “That will come only playing well. I’m playing as well as I can, let’s see what the end of the season brings.”
Giovinco’s Key Moments:
11th – free kick from 35 metres blocked by GK Irwin, cleared momentarily, ball falls to Bradley who shoots high
14th – Takes pass from Findley, eludes a player and runs the length of the field from the midfield stripe, hits right foot shot from top of box, deflects off defender and ball goes through the hands of Irwin and in (18th goal)
18th – Cheyrou plays ball through middle, Osorio backheels to onrushing Giovinco, takes touch then bends right foot shot past Irwin and in (19th)
36th – takes pass from Bradley, floats a cross to back post where Altidore heads just wide
37th – takes long pass from Cheyrou, beats defender, charges in but shot is deflected out for corner
38th – takes corner to near post – Perquis heads in to score (14th assist)
60th – starts run from defensive half, left side of field, cuts into middle, tripped by Pittinari who earns yellow card – resulting free kick from 30 yards is just over bar
76th – takes breakout punch from corner from Konopka, is fouled by Cronin, who earns yellow card
82nd – steals ball from Ramirez, sprints past Burling, attempts cross but hits own foot and rolls behind end line
Giovinco’s Key Stats: (via Opta Sports)
Total Shots: 6
Shots on Target: 3
Total Passes: 19
Passing Accuracy: 84.2%
Giovinco’s Match Rating: 9
Two goals, an assist, penetrating runs, pinpoint crosses, a hint of petulance and a standing ovation to celebrate his performance. Ranks as one of his best and most complete efforts of the season.
MVP Watch – League Stats: (League ranking in brackets)
Goals: 19 (2nd)
Assists: 14 (T-1st)
Shots: 158 (1st)
Shots on Goal: 63 (1st)
Games remaining: 5
Sat. Sept. 26 vs Chicago Fire – 2:00pm ET at BMO Field