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One Man Show: Toronto FC's Offense Needs More Than Just Sebastian Giovinco

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Relying on a star player is one thing, but Toronto FC has lived and died by the play of the atomic ant this season.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Sebastian Giovinco is a fantastic talent. Fact. Giovinco is the offensive leader for Toronto FC. Great news.

Things seem to be going quite well for Toronto. They’ve managed eleven points in eight games, all on a torrid road trip. They are tied for the best defensive record in the entire league. While critics suggested a possible sophomore slump, Giovinco’s name has been littered all over the scoring sheet. With six goals and three assists in eight games, there is no doubt that the Atomic Ant has picked up where he left off from 2015, where he won league MVP, Newcomer of the Year, and the Golden Boot awards.

Upon scoring his next goal, Giovinco will be the franchise leader in all-time MLS goals; moving ahead of De Rosario’s total of 28. He already owns the record for most career assists, game-winning goals, hat-tricks, and shots. Newsflash: He’s only been a Toronto FC player for 41 games.

While the numbers look fantastic from a fan perspective, there is another storyline that is a cause for concern. Giovinco has six goals and three assists this season. Toronto has scored nine goals. The Italian has played a role in every single goal the team has scored. When Seba creates or scores a goal, Toronto scores, otherwise they don’t.

He is ranked first for most shots by a Toronto player with 44, which is more shots combined from the person ranked second to the one ranked tenth on the team. Giovinco averages 5.5 shots/game. His strike partner, Jozy Altidore, has averaged just one shot per game. Without Giovinco, Toronto is in deep trouble.

Now, that is something that can be said about any team in the world. Lose your best player, and you’re in a bit of trouble. Usually, the next above average finisher in the team, or plan B, takes center stage and does a decent job for the team. So, in Toronto, that man would be Jozy Altidore. All things considered, that is a reasonable amount of depth.

Problem is, Toronto will likely lose both plan A and B this season, when Altidore leaves for Copa America with the US National team, and Giovinco gets called up to the Italian national team for the European championships. Who’s their attacking depth? Molham Babouli, who was playing at Sheridan College less than four years ago?

You’d imagine that when they lose their best players to international tournaments in a month’s time, Toronto will resort to their early season tactics of sitting ten players behind the ball all game, hoping to catch the opposition on the counter. Well, it’s worked, they snagged eleven points out of eight games, and that was on the road too. But taking a look at the anatomy of those wins makes one realize that points could be very hard to come by without the Atomic Ant.

New York Red Bulls: The Red Bulls contain the ball all game, and eventually lose on a penalty kick earned by a Seba cross, and scored by Seba. He then continues to assist Delgado for the second goal. Toronto did not have a single sniff at the Red Bulls net that game until that moment. Seba found a minuscule opening, and Toronto earned three points.

New York City FC: Greg Vanney’s team go down early by two goals, and save a point from the game by a Giovinco cross and a Giovinco goal. New York City had almost 60% of the possession, with Toronto feeding on scraps. Toronto had just four shots on goal that day, Seba taking three of them.

New England Revolution: The Reds escape with a point from Foxborough after a Giovinco goal- Toronto’s only shot on goal that game. New England dominates possession with 60% of the ball yet again.

D.C. United: Toronto wins a narrow decision 1-0 on a Giovinco goal. DCU carried the ball for over 56% of the time, and dominated possession for all of the game minus 15 minutes.

Montreal Impact: Toronto wins 2-0 on four shots, both goals scored by Giovinco. Toronto with about 47% of the possession.

The common theme in all these matches was that Toronto fed on scraps. Dominated on possession by opponents, Greg Vanney’s boys would often end up with minimal chances in a game, which would be put away by Sebastian Giovinco. It is the mercurial attacking talent that Seba possesses, not requiring more than a glimpse to put away a goal, which has earned Toronto almost all of their eleven points.

The difference between top scorers and average strikers are the conversion rates. The best make you pay with one chance while others may require multiple looks at goal to capitalize. So when Altidore and Giovinco do leave for international duty, which is very likely, Toronto will resort to their early season game plan. But when they do get that one chance to get a goal, who can they count on to finish?

Giovinco has become such a prime attacking piece for Toronto that his average positioning is ahead of target man Altidore. You wouldn’t expect the small attacking midfielder to be playing ahead of a traditional #9, such as Altidore. However, it’s been working and Vanney seems content with riding the hot hand

It is logical for teams to rely on their best players, but it can be worrying when there is no offense coming from any other member on your roster and you are faced with lengthy periods without him.