TORONTO—All is forgiven.
After Sebastian Giovinco publicly said he was sorry for being mired in an unprecedented dry spell—an apology he didn’t have to issue in the first place considering all he’s done for the franchise—the Italian scored three times to guide Toronto FC to a 4-1 win over D.C. United on Saturday night.
Giovinco’s hat trick before 26, 349 fans at BMO Field not only ended his eight-game goal drought in Major League Soccer—his longest dry spell since joining the Reds last season—but it also moved him past Dwayne De Rosario as the club’s all-time scorer in all competitions with 35 goals.
“Unfortunately, you can’t score every game and I’m really sorry to have stopped scoring, but I hope to be back on the road to scoring again,” Giovinco said after Thursday’s practice.
That’s all in the past. The Italian is back—and how!—following this masterclass performance which featured two spectacular free kick strikes. This was easily one of his best games in a TFC uniform.
“Seba is back. Great goals, great performance by him. It’s nice because for his sake it’s off of his mind now,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney.
D.C. United coach Ben Olsen was equally impressed with the Italian’s efforts on the night.
“He’s fun to watch. He’s not fun to play against,” Olsen admitted.
Toronto was coming off an embarrassing 2-1 loss against nine-man San Jose last week. With only five points from their previous five games, the Reds needed this one and they needed it badly. Giovinco, like he’s done so many times before, answered the call to breathe new life into a team that was looking stagnant during the dog days of summer.
“We were all embarrassed and ashamed [of the loss in San Jose]. … We were sharp in training all week, and that was [my] last message to the group—let’s respond for ourselves and our fans from last week; let’s make sure that we come out with the right urgency from the start,” Vanney stated.
Aside from Giovinco, TFC received stellar performances from Benoit Cheyrou and Canadian Jay Chapman, the duo connecting to great effect in building the attack out of central midfield, and spraying sublime passes for teammates all over the field. And it was a good night for Toronto’s defence—Drew Moor’s uncharacteristic error on D.C.’s lone goal notwithstanding—as they neutralized the visitors even though they enjoyed the majority of the possession.
In addition to three key starters missing through long-term injuries—goalkeeper Clint Irwin (quadriceps strain), captain Michael Bradley (knee sprain) and fellow midfielder Will Johnson (bone fracture)—TFC was also without Canadian Jonathan Osorio on Saturday because of illness.
Newly acquired Canadian striker Tosaint Ricketts made his TFC debut as a second-half substitute. American forward Jozy Altidore also saw action as a substitute, his first appearance for the Reds since suffering a hamstring injury in mid-May.
Jordan Hamilton carved out an early chance for Toronto on a lovely setup by Cheyrou and Chapman. The game settled down for a bit after that before exploding to life with four goals in an 18-minute span.
In the 21st minute, Giovinco hit a majestic free kick from 25 yards out—from the left and over the wall—that beat goalkeeper Travis Worra and nestled in the upper right corner. The goal ended the Italian’s scoring drought at 696 minutes. But Toronto’s lead was short-lived.
Just three minutes later, Moor whiffed on a through ball at the top of the box, and D.C.’s Jared Jeffrey capitalized by slotting it past Alex Bono. TFC, though, restored its lead in the 29th minute. Chapman beautifully pivoted and played a ball towards the edge of the box that Hamilton dummied for Giovinco. The Italian latched onto it and fired a shot off the far post, but Marky Delgado was there to pot the rebound.
Six minutes before halftime, Giovinco stroked another gorgeous free kick from 25 yards out—this one from the left side and over the wall—that blew past Worra in the upper right corner.
TFC nearly made it 4-1 early in the second half when rookie Tsubasa Endoh unleashed a driving shot that Worra did well to get down and push around the post. Both Ricketts and Altidore came close to scoring just moments after entering the game—the Canadian hit the post after being played in behind D.C.’s defence, and the American fired just wide of the far post from an angle from in close.
Giovinco completed his hat trick in injury time, finishing off a cross played deep into the box by Mark Bloom from the right flank.
“For a striker, scoring is always very important. When you don’t score for seven or eight games it’s very difficult. I just tried to stay calm and confident during that time,” Giovinco said.
NOTES: Toronto FC honoured former club captain and Canadian international Jim Brennan during a special pre-game ceremony on Saturday… D.C. leads the all-time MLS series against Toronto with 12 wins and four draws in 25 games… These two sides will meet for the third and final time this season on Oct. 1 at BMO Field… TFC continues its four-match homestand with games against Columbus (July 31), Real Salt Lake (Aug. 3) and New England (Aug. 6).