It was the single greatest individual performance in Toronto FC history, and there’s a case to be made it was one the best—if not the best—in the history of Major League Soccer.
Sebastian Giovinco underlined why he’s the most dynamic player in the league on Sunday by scoring three times in a nine-minute span—recording the first MLS hat trick in franchise history—and setting up another goal against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium. And it could have easily been six goals for the diminutive Italian, who twice hit the woodwork, including on a failed penalty attempt in the first half.
With 11 goals and eight assists in 16 games, Giovinco added to his growing reputation in MLS by single-handedly dismantling NYCFC, as he sent a not-so-subtle message to his former Juventus teammate and good friend Andrea Pirlo—try following my act if you can, paisano mio.
This was a performance more than worthy of a victory, and quite frankly, it demanded that maximum points be collected. But the Reds, not for the first time, found a way to turn three points into one by conceding late, and settled for a 4-4 draw.
“This was as crazy, as hectic, as unpredictable a game as I’ve been involved in,” said TFC coach Greg Vanney, who called Giovinco “spectacular” on the day.
Although he didn’t say it, you have to think Vanney is fuming over how his side managed to let this one slip away from them and waste such a marvellous showing by Giovinco. To take a single point after the best player in the league put in an effort like that is beyond wasteful. Giovinco deserved better. Much better.
Really, what more could the Italian have done?
Down 2-0 after 29 minutes, Giovinco sprung to life and badly burned New York with his quickness, deft touch, intelligent runs and clinical finishing in finding the net three times to give the Reds a surprise 3-2 lead going into halftime. Then in the second half, he won the ball at midfield and went on a probing run down the left flank, fighting off defenders along the way, before supplying a perfect pass for Marky Delgado to finish off in the 82nd minute.
Unfortunately, Toronto couldn’t close the deal in a wild game that featured four penalties (two for each team, two converted) and saw New York score the equalizer in the 84th minute off a botched defence clearance by substitute Warren Creavalle.
“With ten minutes or less to go, we have to see that game out,” Vanney stated.
Two weeks ago NYCFC ran out 2-0 winners over TFC at BMO Field. The New York club did an effective job of neutralizing Giovinco with their cynical and physical style of play, routinely hacking at the Italian and fouling him off the ball. On Sunday, referee Ted Unkel called a much tighter game, and that worked to the Italian’s advantage.
“They were able to get away with playing physical (in Toronto). Today, I thought the game was called the exact opposite of the last one,” Vanney said. “Sebastian is capable of drawing so many fouls and PKs… so when that happens, you think players would start to get a bit tentative in a tackle and when they get in on a challenge.”
Vanney later added: “He’s quick, he’s shifty, and he can unbalance you so easily. If you can’t beat him up and make physical contact with him all over the place and the game opens up a bit, then he can show you what he’s really capable of doing.”