TORONTO — Sebastian Giovinco continues to take the MLS by storm. But the Toronto FC star is taking his lumps from opposition players.
After scoring twice and setting up a third goal, Giovinco was pulled in the 84th minute of a 3-1 win over the Colorado Rapids. Toronto coach Greg Vanney said he made the move in part because the diminutive Italian was growing hot under the collar.
“He’d prefer to be protected (by the officials) a little bit more over the course of games,” Vanney said after Saturday’s match. “(He was) frustrated that he holds a guy off and he’s looking to go to goal and somehow the foul turns around and is on him.
“He was a little baffled, as I was, in some of the things going on … Part of the reason we got him off was because he was getting quite fiery on a number of levels and he’s not a guy we want to lose in upcoming matches.”
Giovinco now has 19 goals and 14 assists in his debut MLS season, continuing his assault on the record books.
With five games remaining, he is already tied for second in league history for goals and assists combined in a single season.
The record of 34 was set by Chris Wondolowski in 2012. Giovinco is tied at 33 with Jason Kreis (1999), Robbie Keane (2014) and Cobi Jones (1998).
The five-foot-four, 135-pound Italian, who punches well above his weigh, has been fouled a league-leading 77 times this season. Many of those fouls have been cynical and very physical.
Colorado captain Sam Cronin was yellow-carded Saturday after his arm connecting with Giovinco’s face after a pretty flick-on. Giovinco was hacked down on other occasions.
“There were a few times where I think the ref may have gotten it wrong,” Giovinco said diplomatically through an interpreter. “But such is the game of soccer and that’s the way it goes. We’ll see what happens next time.”
Asked if the treatment was getting worse as the season unfolds, Giovinco chuckled and replied: “That’s what it feels like.”
While Giovinco makes his feelings clear on the field — usually arms outstretched with a look of amazement on his face or looking aggrieved on the ground while grabbing a part of his anatomy — he does not complain in the media.
Despite the rough ride Saturday, Giovinco found time to break the 15-year-old MLS single-season record for shots in a season. He has 158, erasing the mark of 152 held by Mamadou Diallo in 2000.
He is tied for third all-time for shots on goal in a season (63).
The Italian star’s 19 goals in 28 games incredibly moves him into second place in TFC’s career league goal-scoring list behind Dwayne De Rosario (28 goals, 76 games). Giovinco’s 14 assists are also a team record, one of several club marks he already holds.
It was Giovinco’s fifth multi-goal game for Toronto, which ties him for first with De Rosario on Toronto’s all-time list.
It was also his sixth game-winning goal game, second on Toronto FC’s all-time list.
Giovinco opened the scoring in the 14th minute, dribbling in from the halfway line while Colorado players backed away. When he got to the edge of the box, he hammered a low shot that Clint Irwin got a hand to but couldn’t keep out.
Giovinco did it again four minutes later, curling a shot into the corner after a nice give-and-go with Jonathan Osorio.
When he wasn’t terrorizing Colorado defenders, Giovinco looked to play provider, via backheel, a sumptuous volleyed pass across the field or perfectly flighted cross.
He finally got an assist in the 38th minute when Damien Perquis headed in his corner. Giovinco had won the corner, his attempt on goal stopped by a timely Colorado block.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press