Breathe easy, Toronto FC fans—the club’s franchise player is on the mend.
Coach Greg Vanney told reporters Tuesday that Sebastian Giovinco’s abductor injury isn’t serious, and that while he likely won’t be available for this Saturday’s road game in Seattle, the hope is the Italian will be ready for TFC’s three-game stretch from Sept. 13-19 when they play New England, New York City FC and Colorado.
Giovinco is in Italy right now is expected to return to Toronto by the end of the week.
“He’s been evaluated (both by the Italian national team and TFC). We will reassess when he comes back to see his progress, but nothing that we have (from our evaluation) before he left (indicates) that it’s serious,” Vanney stated.
“We don’t think he’ll be prepared (for Seattle) but we’re hoping by the time we hit the three-game week he’ll be back ready to roll. That’s our estimation.”
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Nicknamed the Atomic Ant, Giovinco received treatment for an abductor muscle problem last week and then aggravated the injury during Saturday’s 2-1 home win over the Montreal Impact. Giovinco played 51 minutes in that game before being subbed out.
Still, he flew to Italy to join the Azzurri so that he could be examined by the national team’s medical staff—he was recalled by Italy for their upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Malta and Bulgaria. On Monday, the Italian federation revealed that Giovinco left the team’s camp at Coverciano, located in Florence.
Giovinco, 28, has enjoyed an explosive debut season in Major League Soccer thus far, scoring 17 goals and adding 13 assists, and has emerged as a leading candidate to win the league’s MVP award.
Vanney thinks there is even a silver lining in this injury situation, as Giovinco has started in all 25 of Toronto’s regular season games without much rest.
“I see this as an opportunity. It’s not a serious injury and maybe it’s a chance for him to relax physically and mentally, recover a little bit, and prepare for the final stretch and be really sharp. Sometimes these injuries are hidden gems,” Vanney explained.
Giovinco made his national team debut in February 2011 against Germany, and has won 21 caps for Italy. He played at Euro 2012 and the 2013 Confederations Cup. His last appearance for Italy was a November 2014 victory over Albania.
Vanney did admit he would have liked to have seen his star forward play for Italy in these upcoming qualifiers.
“What I’m most disappointed about is that he doesn’t get a chance to get back to the Italian national team and show the form that he’s in. That to me is more disappointing than him not being with us on the weekend (in Seattle). I wish he had that opportunity because I think he’s been in fantastic form, and I wish for him he could prove that for himself,” Vanney offered.
With Giovinco more than likely out for Saturday, and with Jozy Altidore away with the U.S. national team, chances are very good that Herculez Gomez will start for the Reds.
Gomez has played only 19 minutes as a substitute since signing with TFC in August, and hasn’t started a competitive game since his stint with Puebla in the Mexican first division.
“I’ve been racing against time to get as much match fitness under my belt to be ready when called upon. But to be quite honest I feel good, and the only way to get that fitness is to be out there,” Gomez said.
Midfielders Benoit Cheyrou (ankle) and Daniel Lovitz (heel), and defenders Jackson (minor hamstring), Nick Hagglund (knee twinge) and Damien Perquis (quad) did not train with the team on Tuesday. Vanney said they will all be evaluated as the week progresses, and that they could make the trip to Seattle.
“We’ll make an assessment over the week and pick the group that we think will give us the best shot,” Vanney said.
Toronto is currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference (the top six make the playoffs) and sits on a nine-point lead over Montreal and New York City, who are tied for seventh. TFC is also only seven points behind conference leaders D.C. United and five back of the New York Red Bulls, teams that Vanney has set his sights on.
“We’re happy with the fact we have a cushion. We’re not content with where we are. We as a group want to keep taking steps forward, because it’s about form going into this final phase of the season,” Vanney said.
“On top of that we want to start making some headway on the teams in front of us. As we move towards the playoffs it’s about positioning ourselves as best we can to play as many games at home as possible.”