TORONTO – He may not be the most physically imposing player, but Sebastian Giovinco is definitely forged out of some sturdy material.
The 5-foot-4, 130 lb. Italian firebrand, who has threatened MLS defenses with every twist and turn, is Toronto FC's ironman, having started each of the club’s 25 regular season matches this year.
Only defender Justin Morrow comes close to Giovinco, notching one fewer appearance and two fewer starts.
With 2,132 minutes under his belt, Giovinco has only missed a mere 118 minutes of time this season, a sizable chunk of which came when he was forced off with an adductor strain in the 51st minute on Saturday against the Montreal Impact.
The injury not only threatens his streak, but also ruined his much-anticipated return to the Italian national team. Giovinco travelled to Italy's training camp, only to be deemed unable to participate by the team’s doctors. He will remain in country for a few days before returning to Toronto later this week ahead of a match on Saturday in Seattle (10 pm ET, TSN2, MLS LIVE).
When pressed after training on Tuesday, TFC head coach Greg Vanney refused to absolutely rule out Giovinco's participation against the Sounders, stating there's “very little chance, but we'll see as he recovers come the end of the week.”
“[There's] no indication it's serious; a couple weeks,” said Vanney. “We're hoping by the time we hit the three-game week [Sept. 13-19 vs. New England, at New York City and vs. Colorado] he'll be back, ready to roll.”
Rather than dwell on his star’s injury, Vanney focused on the positives.
“We were going to lose him this weekend one way or the other,” he said. “I see this as an opportunity; a chance for him to relax, physically and mentally recover, and prepare for the final stretch. Sometimes injuries are hidden gems.”
“It's an opportunity for a couple of guys to get a run out,” Vanney continued. “We're going to need everyone as we push towards the playoffs.”
Toronto will definitely be without the services of Jozy Altidore this weekend, who is currently with the US men’s national team ahead of their Friday friendly vs. Peru. Together, Altidore and Giovinco have accounted for 27 of Toronto's 44 goals.
“The good thing is we have lots of forwards in our team,” said Vanney. “With Jozy and Seba away, we move into Luke [Moore] and Robbie [Findley] and Herc [Gomez]. We have options that we're very comfortable with. We'll make an assessment over the week and pick the group that will give us the best shot.”
All three of those forwards are in contention, champing at the bit for minutes and goals.
Gomez in particular has looked sharp in training, settling into the team and finishing with an impressive voraciousness after joining TFC on Aug. 7.
“I'm always ready when called upon,” Gomez said on Tuesday after training. “I've been working hard since I got here, trying to improve my fitness. There's really only one way to get match fitness and sharpness, so I'm hoping my number is called upon and I can show I'm ready.”
Added to that eager triumvirate, Vanney will also have both Michael Bradley, who will remain with the club before joining the American side ahead of next week’s friendly against Brazil, and Jonathan Osorio, a player he did not expect to be available prior to his surprise non-call for the Canadian national team.
There was one dimension to the Giovinco injury that Vanney admitted was a shame.
“What I'm most disappointed in is that he doesn't get a chance to get back to the Italian national team and show the form that he is in,” he said. “That to me is more disappointing than him not being with us on the weekend. I wish he had that opportunity because he's been in fantastic form. I wish for him that he could prove that for himself.”