TORONTO – Sometimes, no matter what one does, one's fate lies in the hands of others.
That fact was visited once more upon Sebastian Giovinco this week when Giampiero Ventura announced his Italian national team squad for upcoming matches against Liechtenstein and Germany. Despite Giovinco's impressive numbers in 2016 – 17 goals and 15 assists in 28 matches, plus four goals and two assists through three matches in the 2016 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs – once again he was not included in Italy's squad for the two games.
Ventura explained his decision, saying Giovinco plays in a league that doesn't matter for much in his evaluation of players. It was the same explanation proffered by his Azzurri predecessor Antonio Conte on Giovinco's exclusion from Italy's squad for the 2016 Euros.
Giovinco's agent, Andrea D'Amico, responded to Ventura's remarks; his teammates and manager had their turn come Wednesday.
“If you watch Sebastian play, it's hard to understand how you don't think that he can help your team,” said Toronto FC goalkeeper Clint Irwin. “He's scoring goals for fun. I haven't seen a lot of Italian forwards with his ability, creativity, and skill on the ball. I disagree with [Ventura's] comments, but it's his team and he gets to pick them.”
What raised the ire of D'Amico was that Ventura and his staff had not even bothered to come watch Giovinco play in person – TFC head coach Greg Vanney said he was unaware of any contact from the new regime expressing interest in attending a match.
Beyond that, Vanney said, Ventura's comments stung deeper, smearing the entire league with a broad brush.
“It's an ignorance to our league and to how difficult it is to actually compete, be successful,” said Vanney, taking pains to address the comments and not Ventura himself. “We've had players come, excel, and still go back to their national teams and be fantastic. Sebastian is a great player, regardless of where you put him, what league it is. A great player is a great player.”
“It's an easy way out to say that our league doesn't matter,” continued Vanney. “Those are comments I've heard over many years [from] people who don't understand the league, don't know it's challenges, how difficult it is to perform.”
Vanney said Ventura's comments were unfortunate with MLS on the rise, perhaps to where one day it will be competing with the world's biggest leagues.
“It's not a fair comment,” said Jonathan Osorio. “[Maybe], if he knew more, he would take back what he said. I feel for Seba. Everybody knows he deserves to be there... deserves to be at least a finalist for MVP [too].”
With the sting of being left out of the final three for the 2016 Landon Donovan MVP award fresh on his mind, Giovinco tore New York City FC to pieces, registering a playoff hat trick and adding an assist. Could the same response be percolating for the beginning of the Eastern Conference Championship in Montreal, which will begin Nov. 22 (8 pm ET, TSN1/3 | ESPN in US)?
Said Osorio: “The great players like Seba know how to use that as motivation instead of letting that bring them down.”