Sebastian Giovinco, Toronto FC midfielder, fires winner vs. Union
Ex-Juventus star added to MLS all-star roster
While Major League Soccer dithered over getting Sebastian Giovinco into the all-star game, the Italian dynamo continued his assault on the Toronto FC record book.
Giovinco added another chapter to a remarkable first season in North America with a goal and an assist in Toronto's 2-1 win Saturday over the visiting Philadelphia Union.
Giovinco was coming off a hat-trick performance against New York City FC that earned him his third MLS player of the week award. Still the $7-million US man was ignored by both fans and the commissioner in the initial all-star picks.
Minutes after Saturday's game ended, all-star coach Pablo Mastroeni included the 28-year-old Italian in his expanded 22-man roster for the July 29 game against Tottenham in Commerce City, Colo.
"It's about time," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. "It shouldn't have been so difficult."
Toronto captain Michael Bradley was voted in by the fans.
After a slow start in intense heat before 25,032 at BMO Field, the game turned in a three-minute sequence in the first half when Giovinco played provider for Marky Delgado in the 29th minute and then scored himself in the 32nd.
Substitute Conor Casey, a former TFC player, scored in stoppage time for the Union after making room for a low shot that beat a diving Joe Bendik.
Giovinco came close to a third goal in the 40th minute after a through ball from Jozy Altidore put him away. He beat onrushing 'keeper Brian Sylvestre but sent the ball just wide of the post.
There were more chances late on. Sylvestre got to the ball first in the 80th minute as Giovinco looked to get on the end of a fine cross from Brazil's Jackson. Two minutes later, he just failed on a headed attempt. And he sent a shot high in the 86th minute, burying his face in his hands after.
Toronto (8-7-3) snapped a three-game winless streak while Philadelphia (6-11-4) saw its three-game unbeaten run end.
Giovinco now has 12 goals and nine assists on the season, which means he has been directly involved in 75 per cent of Toronto's 28 goals. In his last two games alone, he has four goals and two assists.
The five-foot-four 135-pounder has put the once moribund Toronto franchise on his back and is carrying it towards the playoffs.
After just 18 games, he already holds the club single-season records for combined goals and assists (21), assists (nine), shots (106) and shots on goal (44). And he is one away from tying the club single-season record of fouls suffered (50, by Maurice Edu in 2007).
Even if he doesn't register another assist in the 16 remaining games, he will break the single-season club record for assists per game (0.24, set by Amado Guevara and Marvell Wynne in 2009).
- Union coach Jim Curtin on TFC midfielder Sebastian Giovinco
The former Juventus star now stands fifth overall on Toronto's all-time scoring list, moving past Jermain Defoe. Giovinco is second in single-season franchise scoring, behind Dwayne De Rosario's 15 goals in 2010.
Admittedly the Toronto record book has made for thin gruel in the past. But Giovinco, who has been named to the MLS Team of the Week five times this season, is making it far more tasty.
"He is a triple threat, he can beat you off the dribble, he can shoot from distance and he can make a pass too, so you have to respect that," said Philadelphia coach Jim Curtin. "For me he is the MVP of the league right now. To shut a guy down for 90 minutes is a team effort. We came up a little short today."
Giovinco did not speak to reporters after the game since his translator was unavailable.
It was 29 degrees Celsius at kickoff but felt like 38. The Philadelphia substitutes watched the game with towels on their heads.
Tribute to Caldwell
Toronto used the game to pay tribute to former captain Steven Caldwell, who retired this week, and Giovinco.
Caldwell was honoured in a brief ceremony prior to the game. And the first 10,0000 fans got free Atomic Ant T-shirts in honour of Giovinco.
Altidore and Canadian fullback Ashtone Morgan and midfielder Jonathan Osorio were back in the lineup for Toronto after their Gold Cup duties.
But Toronto was without Bradley (Gold Cup) and suspended goalkeeper Chris Konopka. Defender Nick Hagglund was recuperating from having his appendix removed.
Bendik, who lost the No. 1 job to Konopka through injury, started his first game since April 26. After the game, Vanney said the starting job belonged to Bendik.
After a sluggish opening, Toronto went ahead when Osorio and Giovinco capped off a slick passing play to unlock the defence and set up Delgado, who smashed the ball home.
It was the second week in a row the 20-year-old Delgado had converted a Giovinco setup.
Giovinco then did it himself. Sylvestre stopped Giovinco's howitzer of a shot from 25 yards out but couldn't hang onto it. Giovinco beat three defenders to the rebound, controlling it with his chest and then poked it in.
He celebrated by miming a golf swing and then peering into the distance to see where it went.
A Philadelphia goal in the 59th minute was ruled offside.
The visitors were without Edu, suspended for accumulation of yellow cards, and goalkeeper Andre Blake (Gold Cup).