TORONTO – Sebastian Giovinco does not talk much when prodded, preferring to let his play do the talking. In that regard, he says plenty.
In a stop-start 2017 season in which some have questioned his output – seven goals and three assists through 12 appearances – Giovinco just keeps putting in the work. His 96th-minute strike against the New England Revolution this weekend was the 50th of his MLS career – between regular season and playoff appearances – and that total is just one shy of David Villa, who some have heralded as the greatest MLS player of all time. Never mind that Giovinco's 38 assists dwarf Villa's 18.
Nonetheless, Giovinco's celebration on Friday, in front of the South End at BMO Field, was evidence of a burden lifted. He had not scored in league play since May 13, though he did net in the Canadian Championship against Ottawa Fury FC on May 31.
“He's pressing. It's good in some ways, sometimes it works against him,” said Toronto head coach Greg Vanney after the 2-0 win against New England. “When he scored there was a real release, whether it was relief, satisfaction, confirmation. He's been working harder in training than I've seen. For him to score late in the game like that is just the starting point of him reaping the benefits of really pushing himself [physically].”
Giovinco himself downplayed the importance.
“I'm happy. I played well, scored a goal," said Giovinco. "Great job, good result. It was a nice night.”
Jozy Altidore, however, has a theory regarding the numbers debate.
“Everybody is always talking about Seba and I,” said Altidore, referring to criticism of goalless spells. “It's hard to compare numbers. Teams look forward to coming here. We get everybody's best game all the time. They've got it circled on the calendar, regardless of what they tell you. You can see them on the field, their attitude when they come to BMO.”
“It's difficult, to have to play at that level and raise the bar to get a result. We love the challenge. We're here for a reason: to transform this club, and we're seeing it right before our eyes. It is what it is. Nobody's complaining. Seba's not complaining. He's working hard, he's up for the challenge. Form is temporary, that class he's got is permanent. That's not going anywhere.”
It will be difficult to keep Giovinco, who played 210-plus minutes in the last week, off the pitch on Tuesday when Toronto FC play the Montreal Impact in the second leg of the Canadian Championship final. The series is delicately poised at 1-1.
But some have even whispered that perhaps Giovinco's on-field demeanor is a distraction. He does, at times, cut a frustrated figure, remonstrating teammates and debating officials.
For Vanney, that's just the cost of genius.
“There's nothing I can say to him that is going to take the pressure off. He's a goalscorer; he wants to score,” said Vanney. “One of the ways he values himself is to help the team win by scoring goals, setting up goals.”
“He's been able to do it in this league. Now it's about getting sharp. As he scores, he finds a rhythm, he starts to get into a groove. Coming back from an injury, trying to get your fitness, your sharpness, trying to get the ball in the back of the net, those are all things he's working incredibly hard to accomplish. For us, it's a great thing. Hopefully this is just the start of a run for Seba.”