Many would argue that the outcome of MLS Cup 2016 will likely hinge on whether a certain Italian player can come up big in the most important match of the year.
Toronto FC star forward Sebastian Giovinco has played a major role in seeing his team reach its first-ever MLS Cup final this Saturday night against the Seattle Sounders (8 pm ET on FOX and UniMás; TSN and RDS in Canada). And he did it to the tune of double-digit goals and assists over both of his first two years in the league.
MLSsoccer.com caught up with the 2015 MLS MVP ahead of his biggest match since joining the club.
MLSsoccer.com: Do you have family traveling from Italy for MLS Cup?
Giovinco: My parents are traveling from Italy and my own family will be there [at BMO Field], too. It’s going to be nice to have everyone there.
MLSsoccer.com: There were rumors that Drake could be at Cup. You’re a big Drake fan. That'd be cool, if he were coming to see you instead of the other way around?
Giovinco: It’d be great. Soccer needs important people like him with everything he represents for the city of Toronto. So for us it would really make us proud.
MLSsoccer.com: How often have you and Drake met each other over the last couple years?
Giovinco: Once or twice. But just to get a photo with him [photo from February 2016 below].
MLSsoccer.com: Along those lines, what have been the two or three most memorable moments of your time in MLS and North America so far? What are the first things that come to mind?
Giovinco: I hope the most beautiful things are still to come. But I’m really happy to live in a city like this one … Of course, you can never imagine what can happen in the future. But I have to say that I’ve loved my time here a lot. Up to now I’m really happy. But I hope the most beautiful moments are yet to come.
MLSsoccer.com: What does the Canadian Giovinco do these days that you would never have imagined yourself doing only a few years ago?
Giovinco: I’m really laid back. I'm with my family and that’s it. I don’t do anything that special.
MLSsoccer.com: Any Italian traditions or customs that stay the same even in Canada?
Giovinco: Eating at home. Eating Italian never changes [for me].
MLSsoccer.com: On a personal level, how have you changed over the last two years in MLS?
Giovinco: It’s normal that when you make life changes like this [going from Italy to Canada in 2015], you automatically become more responsible. You grow. Having a second child [a daughter, Alma, born in Toronto in August], it helps you. These are all things that help you grow and I’m very proud of this.
MLSsoccer.com: Your eldest son [3-year-old Jacopo], he speaks English?
Giovinco: He speaks English better than me.
MLSsoccer.com: And in the locker room you now communicate exclusively in English?
Giovinco: Yes, yes. On my end, yes. It’s English. I make mistakes, but I make sure I'm understood and that’s the most important thing.
MLSsoccer.com: It’s been a long time since one particular magazine cover in Italy [see below, April 2009]. What would today’s Giovinco tell this 22-year-old Giovinco from 2009?
Giovinco: Well, here I was a little kid and now I’m ... [laughing]. These are nice memories. Every now and then I look back at what I was doing in years past. I like to go back and look at what I was like. But I’m happy today.
MLSsoccer.com: Is today’s Giovinco that different?
Giovinco: The more years that pass, the more you gain experience and it becomes easier to do things.
MLSsoccer.com: What’s the one question you’re tired of getting from the media in recent times?
Giovinco: There are a few but right now I’ve forgotten them all. But there are two or three that are always the same. It’s true.
MLSsoccer.com: Michael Bradley has mentioned that he came to Toronto because he wanted to be part of an organization where he could be a protagonist and leader. Was it the same for you coming to MLS from Juventus?
Giovinco: Yes. When an organization [like Toronto FC] sets the foundation and doesn’t just stop there and wants to continue to get better, this is something that I think is really positive.
MLSsoccer.com: You’ve won championships before with Juventus [in Italy]. But in what way has this run to MLS Cup felt different, if at all?
Giovinco: I’m of the opinion that’s it’s never easy to win anywhere [in the world]. It’s been a real positive experience [the run to MLS Cup] and we hope to finish it off in the best way possible.
MLSsoccer.com: Have you noticed a difference in the sporting culture in North America compared to what it’s like in Europe? Some say it’s more positive and supportive than perhaps in other countries. What's your experience?
Giovinco: Yes, yes, it’s true. Over here there’s a desire to be better and I think that’s always very, very positive.
MLSsoccer.com: At what point this year did you realize that this team had the ability to do something special and win the title?
Giovinco: The turning point came in the second half of the season from the moment in which there were no more injuries and we started to play all together as a team. And I think that’s when we understood that we could do some good things. [Before that] I was injured, or Jozy [Altidore] or Michael [Bradley], or others. But when we were all available again, that's when we understood that perhaps we could do well.
MLSsoccer.com: When you were out injured earlier this year [quad and adductor strains suffered on Aug. 27], were you worried it was something more serious? Was it the toughest stretch for you in MLS?
Giovinco: Yes, because I’ve never had an injury like that. There was real worry, but I recovered and it’s all good [Note: Giovinco missed five MLS matches due to the injury].
MLSsoccer.com: Whatever the result of MLS Cup, what do you still dream of doing in the future? What stimulates you?
Giovinco: Trying to win and trying to do better than everyone else out there.
MLSsoccer.com: How many more years left on your contract and have there already been talks to extend your stay in Toronto?
Giovinco: [laughing] Yes, there are still four years left [Giovinco signed a 6-year contract through the end of 2020]. And I think on my part there’s a desire to continue here and I think on their end [TFC], as well.
MLSsoccer.com: One final detail — the MLSsoccer staff is fascinated by that eye tattoo you have on the back of your neck. What’s behind it?
Giovinco: I liked the idea that I was always able to watch my own back at all times. I found the idea to be fun. I liked it and so I did it.