TORONTO – Is it just me, or have Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore been on fire lately?
Toronto FC’s fantastic forward duo have forged an effective partnership since first being paired up in the 2015 MLS season. In recent weeks, though, they seem to be especially in tune with each other.
In a 2-2 draw against Atlanta on April 8, Altidore pulled off an audacious back-heel on a chip played into the box, flicking it on for Giovinco who side-footed it home from in close. In last week’s 2-0 win over Houston, the roles were reversed. While at the top of the box, the Italian deftly flicked it on with the outside of his foot, and Altidore completed the give-and-go sequence by controlling the return pass with his chest and smashing a volley past the goalkeeper.
Both were among the most brilliantly crafted goals ever scored at BMO Field, with Giovinco and Altidore displaying sublime touches and keen awareness. Fabulous goals aside, the pair continue to work well together, using their collective combination of speed, strength and skills on the ball to cause plenty of problems for opposing defenders.
But Altidore was quick to shoot down this correspondent’s view that their partnership has been in peak form this season.
“I disagree to say that it’s been the best it’s been. In terms of playing off of each other directly, OK, we scored a couple of nice goals. But I think people get lost in the idea that to play together we have to pass the ball to each other,” Altidore said ahead of Wednesday night’s home game against Orlando City.
“Just [Giovinco’s] presence on the field at times is enough in terms of creating space for me, and allowing me to do my thing, and vice versa. I think we’ve hit the ground running since we both came to Toronto. Now, we’re just reaping the benefits of playing with good players, and plays like that happen.”
One of those “good players” is Spanish playmaker Victor Vazquez. One of the club’s most important off-season additions, Vazquez has added a touch of class in central midfield, winning plaudits for his vision and distribution, and his calmness in possession. He’s effectively linked up with both Giovinco and Altidore, which is exactly the reason why TFC signed the Spaniard in the first place.
“He passes and moves. he doesn’t make the game difficult,” Altidore said. “He always gives you a ball where you can carry it and look to the next play. He’s been terrific and I think he’s been invaluable.”
Giovinco and Altidore have also benefited from playing closer together ever since coach Greg Vanney switched from a diamond-shaped midfield to a 3-5-2 formation midway through last season. The tactical switch has played a big role in the evolution of their partnership.
“Some of it is just awareness and being close to each other, and being in positions to read off of each other, and play off of each other,” Vanney said. “That’s something that’s been very good this year. At times last year, when we were in the diamond, they ended up a little bit too far apart from each other with the attacking midfielder in between and linking them together.
“Now with the adjustment, they are a little bit closer together, so they are combining off of each other, reading off of each other. I think that’s been very valuable both for their relationship and for our team.”
NOTES: Wednesday marks coach Vanney’s 100th match in charge of Toronto FC… French defender Chris Mavinga is available for selection again after being sidelined for several weeks with a quad strain. Drew Moor (irregular heartbeat) should be back in full training over the next few days, and could return to action next week… The Reds have a busy schedule after the Orlando contest, with road games against Seattle (May 6) and Columbus (May 10) before welcoming Minnesota to BMO Field (May 13).