Sebastian Giovinco striving to banish ghosts of Montreal as rematch looms

TORONTO—For Sebastian Giovinco last season, there were not many negative moments to dwell upon.

He took the league by storm, scoring goals by the bucketful and setting a new high mark for combined goals and assists in a single season en route to collecting the Landon Donovan MVP Award in his debut MLS campaign.

But if there were such a moment, it would have to be the abrupt end to the season: Toronto FC crashed out of the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs early – at the hands of local rivals, Montreal, no less – falling 3-0 to the Impact in the Knockout Round.

Giovinco has picked up where he left off, scoring four goals and registering a pair of assists to factor in all six of Toronto's 2016 tallies.

Sebastian Giovinco

This weekend offers a chance at redemption, to make amends for last season's failing with their first of five encounters against their Eastern Canadian adversaries this season. TFC will face Montreal at Stade Saputo on Saturday (4 pm ET, TSN4 & RDS in Canada, streamed on MLS LIVE in USA).

Ghosts of that defeat may linger, but Giovinco sought to banish them once and for all after training on Thursday.

“We need to focus on getting [the loss] out of our heads and on gaining the three points on the weekend,” he said. “We need to recharge, both in the dressing room and on the field, to make an improvement and get the points we need in Montreal, just like we did last week.”

It is a task that will not be easy: Montreal sit comfortably atop the Eastern Conference and might welcome Didier Drogba back into their starting lineup on Saturday, making their side all the more fearsome.

This Giovinco knows well. “It's very difficult with Montreal because they're a fantastic team,” he said. “We will go, try our best, and improve on what we were last year.”

There are marked signs of that improvement from TFC this season, primarily in the form of their improved goals-against average, addressing their Achilles' heel in 2015 by decreasing their allowances from 1.71 to 0.83 per game.

That single factor alone, nearly one goal fewer per match, means that a solitary moment of magic from Giovinco is more than enough to win on any given day. At times last year, it seemed that even a hat trick from the Italian international wasn't enough to garner the full three points – a wild 4-4 draw against New York City FC in July stands out as a prime example.

“We've improved significantly,” Giovinco said. “This season we have more points and we've given up less goals. We're looking forward, in a good direction, and we've made many improvements to the back line.”

“[This] doesn't mean that we as strikers, or we as midfielders, give up on defending,” he added. “Defending is always a team sport, part of the [game]. We must continue to defend.”