Sebastian Giovinco produced what was probably the best regular season in MLS history last year. You no doubt remember the 22 goals best, but there's also this:
A couple of those assists were soft as hell -- he got the John Stockton bump a few times -- but even with those thrown in there was no doubt that La Formica Atomica was a creative force for himself and for his teammates.
And he was a forward. Toronto FC played mostly a 4-4-2 last season, with Giovinco up top alongside Jozy Altidore. Though Jozy ran hot-and-cold in front of net and the midfield balance as a whole was never perfect, the attacking partnership worked because both Seba and Jozy were in their natural spots.
This was something of a rarity for Giovinco, who's often been used out wide for much of his career. The 4-3-3 and (especially) the 4-2-3-1 have surpassed two-forward lineups in popularity on the world stage, and the coaches who've had Giovinco for club and country have been reluctant to play him as a center forward in that set-up. He's also not quite a midfielder, so by and large, he's been shipped out to the wing -- not his best spot.
That particular experiment is happening once again in Toronto, as the Reds switch to a 4-3-3. Right now it looks like Giovinco will be playing inverted on the left with Altidore as the No. 9.
This is not a guarantee that Giovinco will be less influential or that this adjustment won't work. Chances are he'll be pinched in very, very tight, and in Justin Morrow he'll be backed up by a left back who is A) smart, B) experienced, and C) really good defensively. TFC do, it seems, have the pieces to play a 4-3-3.
But a word of caution: I am a big proponent of "play your best player in his best spot, and build from there." Giovinco's best spot is and always has been as a second forward, not a winger. So if the Reds struggle early, don't be surprised if a reversion to the 4-4-2 is on the menu.
This is the third in a daily series counting down to to the MLS regular season first kick on March 6. I'm using Paul Carr's tweets (with his blessing) to examine some of the bigger storylines to follow in the upcoming season.