TORONTO – Just try and keep him away from the pitch.
The Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs resume on Wednesday at BMO Field when Toronto FC welcome Columbus Crew SC for Leg 2 of the Eastern Conference Final (7:30 pm ET | FS1 and FOX Deportes in USA; TSN, TVAS in Canada).
A spot in the final hangs in the balance after a 0-0 draw in Columbus on Tuesday. Now, Toronto playmaker Sebastian Giovinco finally returns to the field for the first time in 23 days looking to help his side to a second consecutive MLS Cup final appearance.
“[It felt] like a year,” Giovinco said of the wait. “Everybody wants to play this kind of game. After 23 days, now, finally, we will play.”
Giovinco and striking mate Jozy Altidore were forced by suspension to watch the opening leg from the stands, with their conversations during the early stages of that game captured by TV cameras.
“I won't say what we [were] talking [about], but for sure we were upset for [not being able] to help the team,” said Giovinco. “It was difficult; strange to watch the game.”
Having last featured on November 5 in Leg 2 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal against the New York Red Bulls, both have been pushed extra hard during training. In particular, with TFC's theory that Giovinco thrives under a high workload, they've thrown a lot at the 30-year-old Italian. It's a regimen Toronto coach Greg Vanney says requires “mutual” responsibility.
“We create a training session, the extra work, but it's up to the players,” Vanney said. “What they give to the session is what they get out of [it]. [Giovinco's] focus has been making sure that he is hitting the numbers he wants to hit and that we need him to hit, that he's getting the types of high speed running to simulate the game as much as possible, getting his repetitions in front of and around goal. It's those types of things that we're managing and watching closely.”
Asked how he spent the wait, Giovinco smiled.
“Training more, as hard as possible,” he said.
Columbus should expect a different dynamic to the Toronto attack, but it's anyone's guess just how the duo will react to the long layoff.
“You don't really know until the game comes around,” said Vanney. “[Giovinco] is a highly talented player, has got a skill set that he will work with; we've got a good team around him. The opportunities will present themselves. He doesn't need to force anything.”