TORONTO – As the international window finally draws to a close, Sebastian Giovinco just wants to play.
“It's too long, this is the principle point,” said Giovinco after training on Wednesday. “I don't like to have this break, I like to play, but this is the schedule for the next three weeks. This is what it is.”
And Giovinco will have to wait longer than most of the side, as he is suspended for Leg 1 of the Eastern Conference Final against Columbus Crew SC on Tuesday (8 pm ET | ESPN, ESPN Deportes, TSN, TVAS) after collecting bookings in each of the two legs against the New York Red Bulls. The first was for time-wasting and the second for complaining about a non-call at BMO Field in the second leg.
Despite the long layoff, Giovinco remains frustrated by what he thinks was a "ridiculous" officiating decision.
“I said only to the referee, 'he pushed me',” explained Giovinco. “I saw during the game, everybody go face-to-face with the referee and say something worse than me. And he gives me a yellow card without nothing.”
Though he disagrees with the decision, Giovinco understands it comes with the territory.
“I play with passion,” said Giovinco. “This is my style. I play always with passion; this was my mistake. I like to play like this.”
Though Toronto would prefer to not be losing their stars and are wary of the need to keep their cool, to expect anything else from the Atomic Ant would be counter intuitive.
With 24 days between matches for Giovinco and the knowledge that the Italian thrives under intensity, Toronto will be putting the forward through rigorous training ahead of Leg 2 on November 29 (7:30 pm ET | FS1, TSN, TVAS) in Toronto.
“We are very aware, as he is, of his workload every single day. Making sure that the numbers we want him to achieve, he is achieving them," explained coach Greg Vanney. “We're trying to replicate him getting full matches in this window, to try to keep his match fitness and his durability up. I don't think there is going to be an issue."
Giovinco's playoffs last year were marred by cramping issues that limited his effectiveness and forced him off prematurely in the 2016 MLS Cup Final against the Seattle Sounders.
Despite another injury keeping him out during portions of September and October, Giovinco believes he enters this year's competition in better shape.
“I think so," he said. "I feel good, but we win [as a team, lose as a team]. If you don't feel good, there is another player who can come in and help us.”
And although Crew SC don't possess the same star power as the New York City FC side that finished second in the East in the regular season before a semifinal loss to Columbus, Giovinco expects nothing other than a massive occasion.
“It's a big game; doesn't matter against who we play,” he said. “We have to try to do the best in these two games.”
Giovinco has not scored from open play since August 27, a span of five appearances. But he as hit the back of the net from two free-kicks over that period, including that crucial second away goal in Leg 1 against New York that saw Toronto through the first round.
With an incredible 14 free kick goals over his three-year MLS career, Giovinco credits past Juventus teammates like Alessandro Del Piero and Andrea Pirlo for his precision.
“I played with the best [takers] in the world, this helped me learn more," he said, smiling. “I know now every free-kick goes in. I hope I don't stop.”