TFC notebook: Vanney clears the air with Giovinco

Sebastian-Giovinco

Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco. (Frank Gunn/CP)

Toronto FC was back in training Monday ahead of its home game against the Houston Dynamo on Friday.

Here are some news and notes from today’s practice at the club’s training facility in Downsview.

ALL IS WELL WITH GIOVINCO

Sebastian Giovinco scored twice in TFC’s 3-1 win over the Chicago Fire last Friday in what was his best game of the season thus far. The Italian now has three goals on the campaign following his first brace of the campaign.

But Giovinco didn’t take too kindly to being subbed out with five minutes left in regulation. Denied the chance to complete his hat trick, he stormed off the field, slapping a stanchion in disgust before heading down the tunnel and back to the locker room.

After the game, coach Greg Vanney explained he took Giovinco off in order to close things out by adding another midfielder. In what he called a miscalculation, Vanney said he also wanted to give the Italian a special moment where he could be applauded off the field by the appreciative crowd of 27, 097 spectators after a somewhat slow start – by his high standards – to the season.

Giovinco’s act of petulance was an unsavory display. But Vanney said he also understood the forward’s frustration, and he has since talked to the Italian about the incident, telling reporters that they have moved past it.

“I expressed to him what I was looking for [in making the substitution]. He expressed to me why he was frustrated. We got to the point where I understand the frustration, [just] not in front of everybody. We had our discussion and it’s behind us,” Vanney stated.

“You want a guy who wants to score goals. That’s what he’s passionate about, and I’m okay with that – to the extent that it’s handled properly.”

Giovinco was not available to speak to the media as he was given Monday afternoon off due to family commitments, and he didn’t train with the team. He did, however, work out on his own earlier in the day.

MOOR SEEING CARDIOLOGIST

Drew Moor remains on the sidelines after it was recently discovered he had an irregular heartbeat. The veteran defender is scheduled to leave town Tuesday morning for an appointment with a cardiologist who has a history of treating several other MLS players. Vanney said Moor is expected to return in a couple of days.

Moor has sat out the last two games, and isn’t allowed to even train with the team until being looked at by the cardiologist. The expectation, according to TFC, is that the veteran defender should be able to return to action within the next two weeks.

Moor, 33, played every minute of the team’s first five games, quarterbacking a three-man defence that kept three clean sheets and conceded just four goals.

Last season, his first in Toronto after joining the club as a free agent, Moor played in 32 of 34 regular season matches (all as a starter) and was a major reason why the Reds posted the second-best defensive record in MLS, with just 39 goals against – the year before, without Moor, Toronto gave up a league-high 58 goals.

BYE-BYE, BABOULI

Toronto FC announced late last week that it put Canadian forward Mo Babouli on waivers. Babouli, a 24-year-old native of Mississauga, Ont., showed flashes of creativity during his brief tenure with the club, but the goals never came, and the opportunities quickly dried up.

His departure hardly comes as a surprise, as the Canadian had fallen down the depth chart, and he likely wasn’t going to get much playing time with payers the calibre of Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and fellow Canadian Tosaint Ricketts ahead of him.

Babouli made 16 regular season appearances last season (six as a starter), tallying one assist. An ankle injury meant he didn’t play a single minute through the Reds’ first six games of the 2017 campaign.

“Mo is a good soccer player. Within our group it was where was he going to play? What position was he going to be at an MLS level? We tried him quite a bit at forward and [we both] agreed at the MLS level that he’s probably not an out-and-out forward,” Vanney explained.

“We looked at him as maybe a midfielder. We have a lot of midfielders on our team so the challenge of getting onto the field as a midfielder is very difficult.”

INJURY UPDATE

Starting goalkeeper Clint Irwin was back in full training on Monday, but is probably at least a week away from returning to match fitness. Irwin has been out since early April with a hamstring strain.

“He’s getting closer [to returning]. With any of these leg muscle injuries it comes down to the hitting of balls over long distances, and things like that. He’s close and we’re just going to progress him over the next few days or week, however long it’s going to take,” Vanney said.

Jason Hernandez is also back in full training after dealing with a calf injury. The veteran defender has yet to make his debut for Toronto after signing with the club as a free agent in March. Like with Irwin, the club is trying to get Hernandez back to full fitness before calling him into action.

French defender Chris Mavinga is still dealing with a quad strain and is expected to be sideline for a few more weeks.

QUICK LOOK AHEAD TO HOUSTON

Friday is the only meeting this season between TFC and the Dynamo. The teams played to a 1-1 draw in Texas last August in the only contest between the sides during the 2016 campaign. The Reds have just one win in their last five matches against the Dynamo.

With a 4-2-1 record, Houston sits third in the Western Conference, and is coming off of 2-0 home win over the San Jose Earthquakes, its first clean sheet of the season.

After Houston game, TFC host Orlando City on May 3, before travelling to Seattle take on the Sounders on May 6 in a rematch of last season’s MLS Cup final.

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