It has been the question of countless think-pieces since he joined Toronto FC: can the club win without reigning MLS MVP Sebastian Giovinco? Over the next month, it will at least be partially answered.
Until recently, the argument has all been theory, based on numbers and observation of how dependent the team appears to be on his play. Giovinco has almost always been on the team sheet for Toronto FC since joining the club. He even famously came straight from the airport after international duty, only to come off the bench and score the winning goal in a match against the New York Red Bulls last year.
Today, it was announced that the Italian will miss an estimated four weeks with injuries to his quadricep and adductor strain. If this estimation proves accurate, he will be out for matches against the Chicago Fire, New York Red Bulls and the Philadelphia Union.
In that space of time, Toronto FC will get a chance to prove that they aren't just a one trick pony while fighting to retain their top spot in the Eastern Conference. All three of these matches come against Eastern opposition, with the Red Bulls and Union in hot pursuit of first place.
That makes the timing of this injury difficult, but it could have been worse. This falls during an international break, and therefore Toronto FC doesn't play again until September 10. Giovinco is also expected to return for Toronto's final four games of the season, and anything that may come after that.
So far this season, Sebastian Giovinco has either scored or set up all but 10 of the club's 39 goals scored. It took Toronto FC 11 games at the start of the season to score a goal that did not see Giovinco's name on the scoresheet.
The goods news is that since then a number of Toronto attacking options have rounded into form. Jozy Altidore has scored 4 goals in his last five games, Tosaint Ricketts has a pair since joining the club while the somewhat forgotten Jordan Hamilton has three goals this season. Hamilton has been an unused sub the last five games, ever since Altidore returned from injury.
Altidore is likely to see the brunt of scoring expectations while Giovinco is out , especially considering his play of late. This gives the American a chance to demonstrate that he can be "the man" up top without Giovinco to create chances.
Ricketts is likely to start beside Altidore, should Toronto continue to play the two striker system the have of late. The Canadian international's pace makes him a player who can link up well with Altidore's hold up play. Hamilton, on the other hand, is perhaps a little bit too similar of a player with Altidore to be effectively paired with him.
Giovinco did miss a match earlier this season, also due to an adductor injury. However, it happened just before the Euro 2016 break and therefore the time he missed was minimal. Toronto FC showed will in that match, beating the Montreal Impact 4-2 in the first leg of the Voyageurs Cup semi-final.
Toronto FC just recently started getting a number of their players back from injury, including both Altidore and fellow designated player Michael Bradley. Benoit Cheyrou also missed time recently, as did fellow midfielder Will Johnson. Goalkeeper Clint Irwin remains out, as does Jay Chapman and Ashtone Morgan.