TORONTO — Battered and beaten, Sebastian Giovinco knew he had nothing left. He pulled off his black glove and furiously fired it into the seat he was about to take on the sidelines, while his TFC teammates battled the Seattle Sounders for the MLS Cup in overtime.
Of all the times he’d carried TFC, this was when they needed him the most — one goal away from glory. But his magic was spent; Giovinco was done.
“He couldn’t move. He looked at me. It’s not like I’d take him off cause I want to,” said TFC coach Greg Vanney, after Toronto lost the MLS Cup to Seattle on penalty kicks.
“He gave me the sign that he couldn’t go any more. And when he feels like he can’t go, then he feels like he’s more of a liability to the group than anything. So that’s the decision. It’s not one that I generally want to make.”
It was a bitter departure for Giovinco, who desperately wanted to add an MLS championship to the remarkable resume he’s built since joining TFC last season. That year, he led the league in goals and assists en route to winning the MLS MVP award and earning Toronto its first ever playoff berth, which was cut short when the Reds fell to the Montreal Impact in the first round. This year, Giovinco was on pace for another MVP campaign, but missed time late in the season with a strained quad. He still had 17 goals and 15 assists in 28 game for the Reds. And in his return, he helped guide TFC on its remarkable run to the MLS Cup final. He scored four goals in the playoffs, including a hat trick against New York City FC in the conference semifinal. He also added two assists, setting up Jozy Altidore in both matches against Montreal in the two-game conference final.
Despite the individual accolades he’s received since joining the league, Giovinco has been clear that his goal is to win a championship for Toronto. He knew little about the city before he arrived from Italy, but it quickly became a second home to him and his young family. He and his wife welcomed a baby girl in August, a new sibling for their toddler son. Giovinco has said he enjoys his relative anonymity away from the pitch, compared to the rabid attention generated by soccer back home in Italy. The 29-year-old has played for his country’s storied national team many times, but has been left off the roster twice since joining TFC.
Winning a championship at home, on a cold winter night by the lake, in front of the Reds’ passionate fans, would have been the moment of glory that Giovinco has longed for since he arrived.
But it was a harsh, brutal evening. Giovinco was smothered by the Sounders defenders who knew that he’d turn any inch they have him into a scoring opportunity. He hit the side of the goal early in the second half, on his best look of the night. That moment alone would have been enough. Seattle didn’t register a shot on the TFC goal the entire game. But despite their superior play, Toronto couldn’t catch the break they needed. Giovinco grew visibly frustrated at perceived missed calls throughout the game. Seattle’s constant, aggressive attention wore him down.
Giovinco appeared to cramp up and left the game near the end of the first half of overtime. His teammates nearly won it without him, but finally fell in a thrilling shootout. The home crowd’s fiery roar went silent as the Sounders charged across the pitch in victory. The Atomic Ant’s locker was empty by the time reporters entered the Reds solemn locker room. There wasn’t much to add, anyway. He’d said it all as he left the pitch.
Giovinco was done. And no one hated it more than him.