Giovinco puts on a generous performance in Toronto FC’s first historic MLS Cup final but his efforts prove ineffective on the night as the Seattle Sounders claim victory thanks to penalty kicks.
December 10, 2016
Toronto FC (0), Seattle Sounders (0). 4-5 after penalty shootout
Weather: Light Snow -4 C/ 25 F
Toronto FC brass brought Sebastian Giovinco to Toronto to win. On this day, the boy from Turin had helped Toronto earn the massive chance to win it all, after winning personal accolades of league leading goal scorer and league MVP in 2015.
Surprising to many Torontonians, Ontario’s capital hosted the MLS Cup final on a snow-less pitch. The lack of snow was made up for by the chilly weather: the -4 Centigrade, or 25 Fahrenheit, however, seemed only to bother the 36,000 in attendance – a BMO Field record.
The match got off to a quick start for both teams, with Giovinco involved immediately: in the fourth minute he controlled a ball in the box, laid it off to Altidore whose diagonal shot was slightly deflected by a Sounders defender into corner.
Defenders and midfielders took the stage after that, most notably Seattle’s Osvaldo Alonso and TFC’s Michael Bradley. Both of these commanded play in the midfield and recuperated many lost balls.
On the other side, Giovinco was well marked by Torres and left isolated in a 3-5-2 formation that only left him the odd sniff. In fact, too often Seba was sought through high balls: not the best strategy when your intended receiver is 5′ 4″.
Giovinco was ineffective even on dead ball situations. His free kicks never met the head of a team mate or reached goal.
A good cross by Morrow was met by Altidore’s head but not with enough power to surprise Frei, one of the matches best performers.
The Sounders, on the other hand, did not record a single shot on or at goal in the entire first half.
In the third minute of the second half Giovinco’s biggest chance came to his feet but he put it just wide of the first post.
The rest of the second half featured a myriad of technical unforced errors, with coaches adding some pepper to the mix by changing formations (in Seattle’s case) or simply the actors (in Toronto’s).
Among one of the changes in personnel – to many’s suprise – saw Giovinco exiting the match at the 103rd minute, in what seemed like a technical decision by Toronto FC coach Greg Vanney.
Giovinco’s reaction – once he reached his bench – showed how nervous the star player was. Tosaint Ricketts, his replacement, had one shot on goal – a great chance to put his side up, and created another chance by out-muscling Seattle’s defenders. Both to no avail.
The save of the match, however, took place late in the second extra time where former TFC goalkeeper Stefan Frei literally “lifted” (if one will pass the volleyball term) a lobbing header by Altidore off the goal line to save the day.
The MLS Cup final had to be decided by the arbitrary “lottery” of penalties. Bradley and Fernandez saw their shots saved, and it took extra penalties to decide the winner. After Morrow saw his shot ricochet off the cross bar, Torres – the man responsible for keeping Giovinco dry – netted the cup-winning penalty shot for the Seattle Sounders.
An understandably cloudy Greg Vanney entered the press conference room to congratulate Seattle on their win: “This hurts and will sink in still. At some point the emotion will pour out”. He was proud of his men’s effort on the night, even though it wasn’t enough.
On Bradley’s penalty miss: “He had a fantastic game. Missing a penalty happens – I would never beat someone up for that”.
On Frei’s miraculous save on Altidore: “The header was destined for goal, but Frei’s save was key”.
The million dollar question of the night was the reason for the substitution of Giovinco, a penatly taker, in over time: “Seba couldn’t move. His body language, he gave me a look, like he was done. I wouldn’t sub him off for any other reason”.
Giovinco’s aforementioned eloquent body language after he was subbed off suggested otherwise. Unfortunately, Giovinco was elusive right after the match – was unreachable to any of the media present in the Toronto FC locker room, so questions about his physical shape will be left unanswered.
Giovinco’s Key Moments
3’ Giovinco lays off a ball to Altidore whose shot, slightly deflected, misses the goal by inches
12′ Giovinco free kick from 25 meters (slight left from goal) hits the wall
30′ Giovinco free kick from 25 meters (slight right from goal) takes a deflection from the wall and ends harmlessly in Frei’s arms
48′ In on goal, shoots wide to the right of the first post
65′ Low cross goes across the face of goal, Altidore can’t get there in time
103′ Substituted for Ricketts
Giovinco’s Key Stats (via Opta)
Shots = 6
On target = 0
Passing accuracy = 64.3%
Giovinco’s match rating: 5
Giovinco was blanketed all game by Torres, who diminished his effectiveness. Often isolated and misused, Giovinco got very little service as one of the two front men, and interchanged very few passes with Altidore. Even from a dead ball situation – one of his specialties – Giovinco was unable to create any danger for Frei. Sub par performance on a night where TFC needed him to show all of his talent.