Sebastian Giovinco – Seba The Saviour
Toronto FC’s star acquisition Sebastian Giovinco has given local soccer fans the hope they deserve.
The collective anticipation of a packed BMO Field came to a swell as the long, floating pass from Benoît Cheyrou landed right at Sebastian Giovinco’s feet. Alone, the speedy striker trotted in with the ball toward the goal, the three converging Orlando City SC defenders slowing to match his pace. A shifty step back outside and a few quick strides provided all the time and space Giovinco needed to fire a laser beam into the right side of the net, giving Toronto FC a commanding four-to-one lead. Giovinco leapt into the air with a triumphant fist firmly raised, the crowd roaring with approval of their prized Italian soccer star.
The goal, scored during an early August match against Orlando, was Giovinco’s third of the night — his second hat trick of the year — and his 16th of the 2015 campaign. With that finish he broke TFC’s previous club record for most league goals on a season, 15, that was set by Dwayne De Rosario in 2010. And with plenty of matches left on the calendar before the season wraps in late October, there’s no question that the Atomic Ant will be setting that bar even higher.
Such has been the story since Giovinco shocked the soccer world by announcing he would be leaving Juventus and donning the coveted No. 10 jersey for the Reds in the 2015 MLS season. His play here in North America has been nothing short of magical. He attacks the net relentlessly. He constantly creates scoring opportunities, both for himself and his teammates, often out of what seems to be nowhere. And his play has solidified himself as one the league’s offensive giants — despite only standing at a modest 5’4”. TFC coach Greg Vanney summed up Giovinco’s season pretty well after that historic game against Orlando when he said, “the things that he’s capable of doing are ridiculous. It’s the best way to put it.”
Giovinco’s decision to join TFC started with his well-documented frustrations over a lack of playing time with Juventus during the 2014 season. He was on the prowl for a new club and new opportunities and reports stirred the rumour pot of where he might go. There were talks that Premier League clubs Arsenal and Liverpool were courting the 28-year-old. But when TFC came knocking with a deal reported to be worth over $7 million per season — which would make him the highest-paid Italian player in the world — Giovinco jumped at the opportunity. But, as he notes, it wasn’t just the cash.
“In life, money is not the most important thing,” Giovinco says through a translator in a concrete-walled change room at the Kia Training Ground in Downsview Park. “To me, what I like is the challenge. I’m sure it’s not an easy challenge. But in life you have to set targets for yourself to see if you are able to reach them. This is an important challenge, and I take it seriously, for the sake of myself and for Toronto.”
For the TFC faithful, the challenge has been a brass ring the team has only failed to grasp: playoffs. Toronto has never made it to the post-season in any of the eight seasons it’s competed in MLS. The club has tried desperately over the years to find the final piece of the puzzle, that one great player who can push the club over the hump. But to no avail. Julian de Guzman, Torsten Frings and the not-so-bloody-big-deal Jermain Defoe all took the pitch for the Reds but failed to elevate them above mediocrity.
Giovinco has been different. He’s been an absolute wizard on the pitch, conjuring plays and finishes like Merlin with cleats and boosting the play of all those around him. At the time of writing this, his 17 goals are good for second most in MLS, his 12 assists have him in fourth and his ruthless onslaught against the net has resulted in a league-leading 132 shots and 54 shots on goal. In August, he was named to MLS’s Team of the Week for the eighth time this season and many considered him to be the frontrunner for league MVP. Clearly, “Seba” has had no problems getting comfortable with the North American game.
“Like anything else, when dealing with new things you have to adapt,” he says of getting used to the MLS style of game. “You hope for the best and try to adapt as quickly as possible. Surprisingly enough, it took me very little time to adjust to all the new things. I hope I get even better at this and I am ecstatic about this new adventure.”
But the decision to come to North America wasn’t easy. Even with the sizable offer on the table, choosing to move your family to the other side of the world, to a country where you don’t speak the language, isn’t one you make lightly — especially for a league that is more commonly known for attracting aging pros with their best days behind them.
But Giovinco has no regrets, explaining, “It’s a choice that I would make again, and it has brought new horizons. I’m positive that the American league will grow, because all the elements are here.” He also makes no effort to hide his ambition: “Quite often in Italy they speak of successful Italians. I’m hoping that one day they will talk about me too.”
And if he can finally lift TFC to its first post-season, the roar of approval from a sold-out BMO Field will be something they won’t be able to help but talk about.
Sebastian Giovinco Off the Pitch
Q. Favourite place to eat in Toronto?
A. My house
Q. Favourite place to take his family for a day out?
A. For a walk around the city
Q. Favourite brand of clothing?
Q. Favourite brand of watch?
A. Audemars Piguet
Q. Favourite cologne?
Q. Favourite music/artist?
A. I like listening to everything