TORONTO – Sebastian Giovinco knows he hasn’t been at his best in Major League Soccer this season, but he’s promised that more goals are coming.
The Toronto FC forward was lights out in the CONCACAF Champions League, finishing tied with teammate Jonathan Osorio as the tournament’s top scorer with four goals, and playing a starring role in guiding the Reds to the final.
MLS has been another story, though. The Italian has flattered to deceive, scoring just twice and proving to be incredibly wasteful in front of the goal – he’s taken 58 shots, second most in MLS. To his credit, Giovinco has collected four assists in MLS play, but he will always be judged by how many goals he scores, and on that front, the Italian has been lacklustre.
With just 14 goals through the first 11 games of the MLS campaign, Toronto is tied for the third-worst offensive record in the league. A porous attack isn’t the only reason why the Reds currently sit in ninth place in the Eastern Conference with a 3-7-1 record, three spots and nine points out of a playoff berth. A rash of injuries to key players, including to forward Jozy Altidore, have taken a toll on the reigning MLS Cup champions.
But the lack of goals – and specifically, a lack of goals from the team’s top scorer – has been an issue, a fact not lost on Giovinco.
“Part of the problem is in the attacking side. Jozy is out. I don’t score too many goals. So, I think this is part of the problem,” Giovinco said this week.
The Italian also promised to break out of his slump and to start scoring again, confidently proclaiming, “It’s coming.”
Saturday’s road game against the Columbus Crew is TFC’s first of five consecutive matches against Eastern Conference rivals, so it’s a great opportunity for them to close the gap and climb up the standings.
“I think it’s [been] a tough season, in terms of our results, in terms of our standing,” Giovinco said.
“I don’t know [if we’re close to turning things around], but for sure, we have to improve, we have to believe in what we do in the week, and try to make the results.”
Part of the issue this season, according to the Italian, is that TFC has lacked consistency, and hasn’t played to its full potential.
“Sometimes yes, sometimes no. We have our faults. The club has its faults. Everybody [has] faults this year, so we have to try to cancel what we do at the beginning, and try to look forward,” Giovinco offered.
On the subject of looking forward, Giovinco’s current contract runs out in 2019. He recently told the Toronto Sun that he wants to remain with TFC, but that the club hasn’t been eager to talk about extending his contract.
The Italian insists, though, that doubts over his future have not had an adverse effect on his game this season.
“For me, nothing changes,” said Giovinco. “I play to win. I play to improve my level, and that’s it. I don’t think about this.
TFC continue to be plagued by injury problems.
Forward Jozy Altidore (foot) and defender Drew Moor (quad tear) remain out with long-term injuries, while midfielder Ager Aketxe (hip flexor) is likely a few weeks away from returning to action.
Ailing left fullback Justin Morrow, who has been dealing with a calf problem for over two months, participated in portions of practice sessions this week. However, he is not quite ready to return to full training, and won’t be able to play on Saturday.
Defenders Chris Mavinga (hamstring), Eriq Zavaleta (quad) and Canadian Ashtone Morgan (hamstring) are also unavailable for Toronto this weekend.
On the positive side, midfielder Nico Hasler will be able to suit up against the Crew after missing the previous four matches with a quad injury.
LOOKING AHEAD TO COLUMBUS
Toronto and Columbus have already met this year, with the Crew earning 1-0 win at BMO Field in the season opener. Saturday’s match will be the final meeting of the campaign between the two sides.
Columbus sits in second place in the Eastern Conference with a 7-3-4 record, seven spots and 15 points ahead of Toronto. The Crew are coming off a 0-0 road draw at Sporting Kansas City.
Crew captain and midfielder Wil Trapp and starting goalkeeper Zack Steffen have been called up by the U.S. national team, which means they’ll miss Saturday’s game. Midfielder Pedro Santos (hamstring) and defender Jonathan Mensah (thigh) are questionable.