Welcome to the first edition of Scout’s Take, a new series here at MLSsoccer.com that’ll feature MLS coaches, GMs and, you guessed it, scouts offering their opinions on some of the most noteworthy players and interesting topics around the league.
In exchange for their honesty, we’ve offered all participants anonymity. While you won’t know which coaches we speak to for these pieces, you will get their unfiltered takes. Sounds like a solid trade off, right?
For our opening foray into the series, we spoke to a pair of MLS assistant coaches – both of whom played in the league – about Toronto FC star Sebastian Giovinco.
Here’s their take on just what makes the reigning MLS MVP so damn good:
Is he the best in MLS history?
“At the moment I would say he’s on the pace to be that. If he has another season like this I think I would give the nod to him, but for me I have to say I still think Robbie Keane is the best ever in this league, then Jaime Moreno, then Giovinco is probably on par with Jaime right now.”
“He’s as good as what I’ve seen, for sure… I think that Marco Etcheverry and the impact he had for D.C. early on ranks right up there. That team, in many ways, was built around him. They had the right players in front of him. Whether that was Jaime Moreno, or [Raul] Diaz Arce alongside of him with Johnny Harkes and Richie Williams doing the dirty work in midfield, they built that team around him and his quality. He ran the show, he knew what to do, knew when to take advantage of the opposition. He was very, very good at it. He’s another guy [along with Giovinco] that I would say that was very close to the peak of his game and had a major impact when he came over.”
Just what makes him so good?
“I think the way he just hits the ball. His size-four foot makes the ball do weird things, man. I don’t know how to explain it, if it’s the low center of gravity or something else. He’s pretty good dribbler at speed and taking players on and you have to respect both feet -- left foot, right foot.”
“The reason that I think he’s been so successful is because there’s no one thing that you have to stop with him, it’s everything. He’s good in the run of play, he’s good with the ball at his feet, he’s good getting in behind and he’s also good on set pieces. So just when you think you’ve taken him out of the game in the run of play, you give up a set piece and all of a sudden he puts one in the back of the net and it’s like, ‘Where the hell did this guy come from? He’s been quiet all night.’ So for me he’s easily, easily the most dangerous attacking player in the league and it’s because he has that variety to his game."
Is anyone as lethal on free kicks?
“Probably David Beckham in his time, you could probably compare that. But with this kid, man. Jeez. Like I said, I don’t know how he hits it, or if it’s because his feet are so small, but it’s just like you're shocked if it misses.”
“First person who started hitting it like that was Cristiano [Ronaldo] and then after that you have [Gareth] Bale who hits it just like that. It’s weird, but I don’t think anybody else in the world hits it like these three right now. I think Ronaldo, he hasn’t hit a free kick in a while, but Bale has basically taken over the best free kick taker I think, but Giovinco right now – it’s like anything over midfield it’s a shot.”
“[Former Brazilian international and ex-Galaxy midfielder] Juninho, he’s the one player that I can think of that’s as good as any in the world in terms of set pieces. You knew it when he stepped up to it. That always, that intimidation factor, in many ways, that wreaks havoc on defenses and goalkeepers, in particular. He was outstanding at it. I think when you look at the league we’ve had a few decent ones. [Carlos] Valderrama was good. Beckham was good. There’s been a few guys that can hit a set piece, but the thing that separates Giovinco from those guys is that he can do it within the run of play. It’s just a million different ways with him.”
How do you prep your team to defend him?
“You try to look for tendencies. You just try to look for little habits that they have and spots where they pop up so that you’re really aware of it. You can’t necessarily stop it, but you certainly can direct the defenders, communicate with them and give them an idea of where you want to put them to eliminate some of those places where he’s so good. But that’s really what it is, is just having a good knowledge of where he’s comfortable, where he wants to get the ball on the field. But the problem with Giovinco is it’s almost anywhere, so it’s hard to counteract that.”
“Have two guys on him all the time and don’t let him shoot [laughs]. But like I said, he’s going to create shots from anywhere. He’ll be on the end line trying to take shots and chipping the goalkeeper over there. I don’t know. He’s like an artist, I guess. You know those splash artists that just throw the paint on the canvas and it turns out to be amazing? Yeah, that’s how I see him.”