MLS

Sebastian Giovinco blames Argos for poor BMO Field pitch

Three days after his team lost the MLS Cup final on penalties, Toronto FC star striker Sebastian Giovinco raised the issue of the playing surface at BMO Field.

MLS club confident playing surface will be improved for next season

Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco, who injured his calf during the second half of the MLS Eastern Conference final against Montreal in Toronto on Nov. 30, partly blamed the condition of the BMO Field pitch on Tuesday, three days after his team lost the MLS Cup final to Seattle on penalties. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

The issue of Toronto FC sharing a stadium with the CFL Argonauts, which had seemingly been put to bed, has returned to the forefront just days after the MLS team's painful penalty shootout loss to Seattle in the MLS Cup final.

And it was Toronto's marquee player who raised the issue.

Star striker Sebastian Giovinco told the club's end-of-season media availability Tuesday that while he was physically OK, changing "environmental conditions" had affected his play in the final minutes of the last three home games.

Pressed on the issue, he was more specific — saying he had analysed this season and concluded that unlike last year when he excelled at home, his best games in the 2016 playoffs were away from BMO Field.

"Maybe the only factor that may have contributed somehow in changing since last year is that now this year another team was playing in BMO Field," he said through an interpreter. "That may have contributed to changing something on the pitch."

After his pitch observations, the five-foot-four Giovinco was quickly lambasted by several CFL players.

Toronto FC president Bill Manning acknowledged the field, which he described as very sandy, "wasn't ideal," and cited the Dec. 10th timing and recent Grey Cup as not helping.

Manning said team officials planned to go to Europe to check out hybrid grass fields.

"I'm confident we will be better a year from now .. A player like Seba, he does experience that and he was frustrated. It is what it is and it's something we will improve upon."

Given the two teams share ownership in Bell and Larry Tanenbaum, a change to groundsharing is not likely.

Giovinco had a goal and two assists in four home playoff games. Away from home, he had three goals and two assists in two outings.

The 29-year-old Italian said he had never had a single episode of cramps in four years prior to having them in three of Toronto's last four home games.

"With all other factors being equal, something must have changed somewhere else," he said.

Giovinco had no answers. "I'm no gardener," he said with a laugh.

Giovinco stressed he was not using the pitch to make excuses. He said he was simply explaining why he had to leave game early and had already raised the issue with team management.

But in doing so publicly, he opened a Pandora's box especially after captain Michael Bradley and coach Greg Vanney had repeatedly praised the work of the BMO Field grounds crew in recent weeks. He also gave new ammunition to TFC supporters unhappy at sharing their prized pitch with a team of CFL heavyweights.

On the plus side, Giovinco rebuffed a question over his future perhaps lying elsewhere.

"I am very happy here and I have goals here that I want to achieve," he said. "Once those goals have been achieved, you can ask the same question.,​

Fellow designated player Jozy Altidore was also in a sharing mood Tuesday, saying Toronto needed some offensive help.

"To be completely honest, I think we can use a little bit of a more creative player," said the U.S. international striker.

"I think we're a very good team. But if we have another piece that is creative, whether it be a winger or a creative player that can kind of on his own help us decide games as well would be great ... Look, there's a lot of things we can work on and being more creative is one."

Vanney said he did not expect much turnover.

"For sure our core is not going to change. We want to stay together," he said. "We're just scratching the surface."

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