TORONTO – MLS defenses beware: Sebastian Giovinco is back for 2016, and he and his coach have loftier aims in sight.
“I can't wait to start,” said the Italian maestro on Monday at Toronto FC's first media availability of the season, “[I'm] looking forward to the season.”
Fresh off a 2015 season that saw him take the league by storm, earning the Audi Golden Boot, MLS Newcomer of the Year, and Landon Donovan MVP Award honors, while assaulting the record books with his combined haul of 22 goals and 16 assists, Giovinco eschewed personal glory, preferring team success.
“The main goal this year is the team, to improve on last season's performance,” said Giovinco. “[I] will be happy to help the team. If the results come, it means [I] did a good job.”
Reprising, let alone topping, such a stellar debut campaign seems a tall order. But for TFC head coach Greg Vanney, there is room for growth.
“He can improve [on last season] and we, as a group, can help him in two ways,” said Vanney.
First: make goals easier.
“[Giovinco] scored some world-class goals; it's difficult to say he's going to reproduce those,” admitted Vanney, “but we can defend better, in better areas of the field, win balls in better areas, gain more trust for each other, and have guys fulfilling roles.”
Second, don't fall behind.
“If we can get leads, teams have to come at us,” explained the coach. “That's going to open up space in attack, to do what we do. Too many games we gave up the first goal; spaces become very tight. The more we can get on the right side [of results], the better off it will be for the attacking guys.”
An improved team would definitely serve Giovinco well, but the opposition too will have spent the offseason scheming, feverishly reviewing game film for tendencies, laying traps.
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“Hopefully they won't have any special treatment for me,” said Giovinco. “They know the way I play, that's normal. It's up to [me] to make statements. [My] goal is to perform better than last year, so in the end, it doesn't really matter if they know.”
There are at least three defenders who will be spared his intentions this season, as his new teammates – Steven Beitashour, Clint Irwin and Drew Moor – admitted relief at not having to face the superstar.
“Certainly [Giovinco]'s a guy that I'm glad I don't have to play against on Saturdays,” confirmed Moor in December upon his signing. “You don't get a lot of sleep the night before a game against him.”