There’s plenty to get excited about ahead of what promises to be the most exciting MLS season to date, and at the heart of things is Toronto’s talisman all the way from Turin…
Speaking to Sky Sports in October last season, Sebastian Giovinco admitted there were two things he was yet to tick off his sightseeing list since his transfer to Toronto F.C almost three years ago. The first was Niagara Falls, shameful in it’s own right, but perhaps more criminally, the other was his side lifting the MLS Cup – much like the 30,000 fans that have packed out the BMO Stadium ever since the Canadian club’s addition to the American competition in 2007.
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Fast forward just a few months after that chat and the Italian was finally able to cross off one of these things. Clearly not one for natural beauty, Giovinco played a starring role in ending a decade-long wait for silverware, recording the best campaign in MLS history and, perhaps most importantly, giving the club sweet vindication for years of being the butt of all jokes. Few would say it’s been smooth sailing for a Canadian side playing stateside, with difficulties both on and off the pitch in the form of stadium sharing, managerial change, fan protest and ownership. Things got so bad at one point their own striker, Danny Koevermans, went as far to say: “we’re the worst team in the world.” What it meant to fans (city mayor, John Tory, went as far as to declare December 11th ‘Reds Day’ in honour of the triumph) was clear, and at the heart of things was the diminutive talisman all the way from Turin.
While the difference Giovinco makes playing is clear, off it is perhaps where he’s made the largest impact. Setting a new benchmark for big money, big name designated players joining the franchise, the forward bucked the trend of crossing the Atlantic Ocean towards the latter stages of a career like previous stars have done. Leaving Juventus aged 28, the club he had spent almost two decades at, in favour of a move to Catapult client Toronto F.C despite offers from European sides certainly split opinion, but players of a similar age such as Carlos Vela, Shkelzen Gashi, Giovanni and Jonathan Dos Santos and Nemanka Nikolic have since followed suit. If America is truly the land of opportunity, Giovinco has certainly taken his with both hands playing in the MLS.
Standing at 5ft 4in, Toronto F.C fans can testify good things come in small packages. The club’s record goalscorer with 55 goals, Giovinco’s tiny frame earned him the nickname ‘Formica Atomica’ (translated as ‘Atomic Ant’) at Juventus after the popular American cartoon. It’s a sobriquet that hasn’t quite caught on since he left the Bianconeri, but there’s one undeniable trait the forward shares with Hanna Barbera’s superhero animation – speed.
With a sudden burst of acceleration that’s both explosive and devastating in equal measure, there are few defenders in the world that can catch the Italian when he really hits top speed. That isn’t to say the forward is just a flat track bully, he combines his rapid sprints with clever tricks to beat on-coming defenders and those who think they can use superior physical strength to knock him off the ball – what he did to the unsuspecting Scott Caldwell of New England Revolution is well worth a watch on Youtube. Use your PlayerTek device to measure your top speeds against the professionals, while try and raise the number of sprints you manage to complete in a game to really unsettle your opposition.
Comfortable in just about any offensive position, Gioivnco’s heat map will show a blur of colour in the final third as he operates between Toronto’s central striker and midfielders. For the Reds, the 31-year-old encapsulates the meaning of ’trequartista’ by dropping deep, finding space and then driving at defenders or creating opportunities.
Don’t be afraid to go where the space is – if your options are limited in the middle, roam out wide and see if you can create from there. Having a good relationship on the pitch with those in front of you is also pivotal as not only will their runs be your target for a through ball, but ultimately their movement could hold the key to dragging defenders away and giving you time on the ball. Use your PlayerTek device to see what positions you’re taking up on the pitch and if the direction of your sprints are making the difference.