TORONTO – Just another day at the park, with Giovinco being Giovinco.
The man they call the Atomic Ant scored twice and set up another, and that even that output might not have done justice to a virtuoso performance that helped Toronto open up a five-point gap atop the conference and the league.
“When it's all said and done, he's going to be one of the guys that has a lot of goals and a lot of assists because he's a great player,” said TFC coach Greg Vanney after the match. “Maybe the best that has ever played in this league. I would say [so] – everybody wants to debate that – the best ever.”
Having gone two games without a goal, Giovinco now has 11 on the season and is heating up just as he prepares to face Real Madrid on Wednesday in the 2017 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target (8:30 pm ET | FS1, Univision; TSN, TVAS).
It was Giovinco's sumptuous finish from outside that box that cracked open a tight affair in the 32nd minute, and his stunning free kick that secured the victory in the 67th minute, whizzing past Sean Johnson to nestle in the top-right corner of the goal.
“In my 8 years it's one of, if not the best, that I've conceded," Johnson said. "Free kicks are more like penalties for him. You can't give him opportunities in those situations, in those areas. That's his bread and butter. He looks for one or two of those a game and he's been putting them on target consistently and scoring. Hats off to him; a great strike.”
The goal marked Giovinco's 50th in regular season MLS play, coming in 78 appearances, and it was his 10th from a free kick, a new record.
“What can you say that we haven't all said about Sebastian,” Vanney said. “The free-kicks: he now leads the league in the history of free-kick goals. 50 goals [in MLS]: it was just a matter of time. He's becoming deadly in his finishing. You give him a look, a window, and he's finding good spots, making things dangerous.
Said Giovinco: “Somebody told me I have this record. I have time to do more. I'm happy.”
The two sides drew 2-2 on July 19, TFC needing a late Victor Vazquez penalty to eke out a point. Giovinco was forced off early in that match through injury after an awkward landing. Eleven days later, he was the most obvious difference between the two sides in a match that also included former Barcelona star and Spanish international David Villa.
Two goals in hand, Giovinco then played the ball to Jozy Altidore that won the penalty the American striker converted, passing up the chance for a hat-trick to get his strike partner on the scoresheet.
“Usually you see guys fighting to take balls away from each other,” joked Vanney. “These two know the importance of each of them scoring. They look after each other. We saw it a couple weeks ago in the Orlando game. First, it was Seba who delivered to Jozy, then it was Jozy who waited for Seba to show up and finish it. They're unselfish. They both want to score, but they recognize for us to be successful, and for each of them to be [individually], they've got to work together. They work hard for each other. I love it.”
Said NYCFC manager Patrick Vieira: “[Giovinco] has showed how good he is. If you give him space to express himself, he will hurt any team. Nobody has any doubt about his quality. If you don't defend well, he will hurt you.”