The Atomic Ant has awoken from his slumber at the most crucial time of the MLS season.
What more can be said about Sebastian Giovinco? In his first MLS season the diminutive Italian set an MLS single season record in points with 22 goals and 16 assists en route to being named MLS MVP. He single handedly carried Toronto FC, a franchise known for ineptitude and failure to their first playoff appearance in their history. Giovinco signed a lucrative $7 million per year deal as the team’s top designated player in the winter of 2015 and has been worth every penny since.
Entering his second year Giovinco has been expected to replicate his season with a more balanced squad. In the first half of TFC’s season the Atomic Ant continued his torrid pace with 8 goals in 10 games before going cold during an 8 game streak. Giovinco’s disappointment in not being included in Italy’s EURO 2016 squad has been suggested as a contributing factor to the rare goal drought. Giovinco broke the streak in emphatic fashion scoring a hat-trick against DC United in a 4-1 win, bringing his total to 11 at the time of writing.
In a sports mad city like Toronto, competition for the public’s attention and relevance has proven to be extremely difficult. Toronto Football Club are seen at best as the 4th most important sports franchise in the city behind the Maple Leafs, Blue Jays and Raptors. Toronto is a “big league” town with the self-entitled notion as the “centre of the universe”. As a native Torontonion I can attest to this. Sports fans in this city have an inferiority complex with the desire to be champions. The current trophy drought is 23 years (1993 Blue Jays).
Touted as one of the best players to ever play in MLS, Giovinco has been tasked at not only being the face of the team but also making MLS reputable in contrast to the bigger leagues in Europe. TFC have 18 games remaining and are in the thick of the Eastern Conference Playoff race. With their history it is imperative for this franchise to not only make the playoffs but to make some noise as well. The Reds need to show that their lone playoff appearance, albeit an embarrassing 3-0 loss to Montreal last year was no fluke.
Giovinco is TFC’s best goal scorer and playmaker. His play over the next two and a half months will make or break the team. On paper TFC should be looking to compete for the MLS Cup, but can only do so with another MVP performance from the Atomic Ant. In order to take the next step as a franchise both on and off the field TFC will need Sebastian Giovinco now more than ever.