TORONTO—How valuable has Sebastian Giovinco been to Toronto FC this season?
Consider the following:
• Giovinco has started all 19 of the Reds’ league games, accumulating 1688 minutes of playing time (out of a possible 1710 minutes).
• The former Juventus star has taken MLS by storm in his debut campaign, scoring 13 goals (second-best in MLS) and adding 10 assists (tied for second).
• Amazingly, he’s had a hand in 23 of TFC’s 31 goals this season (or 74 percent).
Needless to say, then, that the Reds wouldn’t be where they are at the halfway point of the season—currently sitting fourth in the Eastern Conference and a serious playoff contender—if not for the exploits and talents of the mercurial Italian.
So it will be interesting to see how TFC does without the “Atomic Ant” if he is ruled out for Saturday’s road game against the New England Revolution.
Giovinco has been dealing with a heel injury for a few weeks, and was subbed out late in last Saturday’s 3-3 draw with the Columbus Crew. The injury prevented him from playing in Wednesday’s MLS All Star Game in Denver, and coach Greg Vanney confirmed the Italian, who didn’t train with the team on Thursday, is questionable for the match in Boston.
“It’s day to day. We’re going to get him through his protocol that we try to get him through over the course of a week, which means by hopefully today, the latest tomorrow, we’ll get him back (on the pitch) and see how he’s doing,” Vanney told reporters after Thursday’s practice.
The fact that New England plays on turf—some MLS coaches rest their star players for games played on artificial surfaces—won’t have much bearing on whether or not Giovinco sees any action against the Revolution.
“Really, it comes down to how he feels. If he feels that he’s progressed enough over the course of the week then that will be the main factor,” Vanney explained.
This is a busy stretch coming up for TFC. After Saturday’s tilt in Boston, the Reds host Orlando City next Wednesday and welcome Sporting Kansas City to BMO Field on Aug 8. That’s three matches in an eight-game span. Considering Giovinco has played in every league game this season, Vanney said he could give the Italian the day off on Saturday even if he’s fit to play.
“It’s definitely in consideration,” Vanney admitted.
“He’s an incredibly efficient player. He knows when to put it out, and when he doesn’t need to make a ridiculous sprint. He manages himself appropriately through the course of matches. … I trust him and (deciding if he plays) is usually in collaboration—it’s not just me saying ‘you’re going to take the day off.’ He’s a part of that (decision-making) process.”
The Reds are already missing captain Michael Bradley who has been diagnosed with a calf strain and is expected to be out of action for the next seven to 10 days. Bradley picked up the injury while on national team duty for the United States at this month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup. He returned to Toronto, and had a scan on Tuesday that revealed the strain.
TFC will also be without suspended midfielder Collen Warner on Saturday, as well as injured left fullback Astone Morgan (abductor strain).
Forward Luke Moore (ankle), and defenders Nick Hagglund (recovery from appendectomy) and Clement Simonin (knee) remain sidelined for the Reds.
Vanney said he expects Morgan, Hagglund, and Simonin to all return to training early next week. Moore is further away from coming back.
“It was about two weeks ago when we were talking about how we were almost 100 percent (healthy), and then bang bang—guys started dropping down. We’re getting there. Hopefully, with three games this week we’ll have enough guys who are coming back and enough guys who can push through the week to do what we need to do,” Vanney stated.
TFC forward Jozy Altidore took Giovinco’s place in the All Star Game and came on as a late substitute in the MLS team’s 2-1 win over Tottenham. Altidore flew directly to Boston and will meet up with his Toronto teammates when the team flies out on Friday.
Altidore has been dealing with a nagging hamstring injury off and on this season, but Vanney insists he’ll be fit to play Saturday.
Vanney also confirmed that French-born Moroccan international Ahmed Kantri could make his TFC debut on Saturday. The Reds signed the centre back as a free agent last Friday.
“He looks solid. Given his experience and given the fact we have three games this week, I’m not sure if he can get through all three. But if we need him he’s available for us,” Vanney said.