Sebastian Giovinco’s Toronto FC were officially eliminated from MLS play-off contention when they fell 2-1 at home against Canadian rivals the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night. Just a year after setting a new league record for most points in a season and lifting the Philip F Anschutz trophy as MLS Cup champions, the Reds didn’t even qualify for the post-season in 2018.
They did receive some good news last week though, as Sebastian Giovinco was re-called to the Italian national team for the first time under Roberto Mancini. The diminutive striker has never shied away from speaking about his desire to represent the Azzurri – even if he is plying his trade across the Atlantic.
“I’m very happy to be back with the national team, very happy,” said Giovinco. “I was surprised, to be honest, but I’ve done a good job here in Toronto and it’s always a pleasure to get called in. I can’t wait to get there.”
Mancini must be commended for keeping an open mind and wanting to see Giovinco up close, because nobody should be excluded from the national team simply because they play in MLS.
“There are coaches in the world who follow our league and are progressive; they understand the quality of our league. Then there are people who are stuck in the world of old, thinking of what MLS was 15, 20 years ago,” said Toronto FC General Manager Tim Bezbatchenko. “Mancini clearly has seen what the top players in our league can do on the international stage. You can look at the performances at the World Cup this summer and past World Cups, the production in Major League Soccer translates to any pitch in the world in any competition.”
While it is terrific news for the player, his club, and the league, many have been left questioning, why now? Statistically, it is one of Giovinco’s worst seasons since arriving in Toronto and the Azzurri seem to have a plethora of players with similar characteristics to the Atomic Ant.
The call-up has rightfully been celebrated around MLS circles as a sign of the league’s continued growth, but it may be worrying for Italian fans.
After all, Giovinco will be 33-years-old by the time Euro 2020 rolls around and for a country that is looking to build for the future after missing out on the World Cup, it’s hard to imagine the TFC striker being a part of that. While he has worked hard for the past three years to get another chance on the international stage ,and deserves the opportunity, it just doesn’t bode well for the re-building process that the Azzurri are apparently under.
There is little doubt that Mancini is sending a message to the rest of the peninsula by proving that he is willing to leave big names off his squad in favour of those getting it done domestically. However, nobody expects Giovinco to be there over the likes of Mario Balotelli, Andrea Belotti, or Simone Verdi, when the games really matter. With national team managers getting so little time to practice with their squad, it just feels like Giovinco was called up more to prove a point than to prepare for the future which may ultimately be the biggest reason for concern for supporters of the Nazionale.