Tag Archives: Sebastian Giovinco

We Need To Talk About Aketxe: Toronto FC falls 3-2 to the New England Revolution

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale
Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne // @crissypayne

Saturday, May 12: 3-2 Loss

Toronto FC twitter is in a state of panic. Fans fear they’ve stumbled into a time warp. Cold sweats and flashbacks of inadequacy ensue as the collective fanbase tries to claw its way back to 2018 from the pre-Bezbatchenko days of old.

Off the back of a frustrating loss at home to Seattle, a lacklustre Toronto FC team was, for the 6th time this season, not good enough. The concoction of troubles does pose a not insignificant challenge. However, not good enough is not good enough and the expectation is that the best team in MLS can continue to contend with the best regardless of circumstance.

Still, you can’t knock coach Greg Vanney for trying to find a lineup that works within his means, though many do anyway. A serious deficit in defenders saw Michael Bradley start in the centre of the backline once again and Gregory Van Der Wiel joins our crowded roster of injured defenders this week with a minor Achilles issue.

With Van Der Wiel, Drew Moor, Chris Mavinga, Justin Morrow, Eriq Zavaleta, Nick Hagglund and even former defender turned full-time midfielder Nicolas Hasler all sidelined we have two full strings of defensive lines missing. And that’s just the defensive woes.

Joining Bradley in this makeshift backline then are out of form 34-year-old MLS veteran Jay Hernandez along with Toronto native and recent MLS debutant Ryan Telfer. Telfer came in for an injury prone but healthy Ashtone Morgan who is safely squared away on the bench, protected from Gillette Stadium‘s synthetic turf. Brazilian wonderkid Auro Jr., the only first choice defender of the lot, completed a 4 man backline.

Defensive fortitude was, therefore, less a promise going into this game than it was a chasm built into our team. It’s just a pity that it wasn’t the pockmarked defense but the midfield that was directly responsible for 2 of the 3 goals. The defensive excuse ends up holding little water. Unsurprising considering the defense was a sieve but I digress.

Having historically lost a few big players at important times to the New England Revolution‘s poor turf conditions, it was no surprise that players like Victor Vazquez and Sebastian Giovinco joined Morgan on the bench. Therefore a somewhat patched together 4-4-2 squad entered the fray and quickly lost control of the game.

The troubles started in the 4th minute with an undercooked pass from Bradley to Ager Aketxe which was intercepted and neatly nestled in the back of the net by the Revolution’s Chris Penilla. Far from being Bradley’s fault, Aketxe has been caught out time and again waiting for the ball to come to him. Our number one goalkeeper for a third season running, Alex Bono, also looked like he could have done more.

It hastily got worse for the travelling side. Just a few minutes later in the 8th minute, Aketxe, after conceding the pass to him on the first goal, appears to believe Penilla plays for the Reds and passes the ball directly to him under little pressure. Perhaps to avoid further confusion for him I’ll stop referring to Toronto as the Reds as it’s dangerously similar to the Revs. Bono, who is completely off his line after fancying a dribble out of his box which started the manic panic, is unable to get back quickly enough to stop Penilla’s leisurely lofted ball sailing into the back of the net.

At this point, it was looking dire for the defending champions. Nonetheless, they spent the rest of the first half with the lion’s share of the possession, troubled only once more by a bundled attempt from Diego Fagundez after our defense was once more cut like cheesecloth. Unfortunately, possession without goals is all but useless and Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner denied a few good chances from Toronto, including a good shot from distance by an atoning Aketxe.

The second half arrives, time for Toronto FC to keep their heads down and get back into the game, right? Wrong. Inside of 60 seconds the Reds concede a third before most of the fans could crawl back to their television sets after 15 minutes of raw panic. 3-0 at the 46th minute; the Reds are sinking again.

One small positive to this goal is at least we can hope a first choice defensive line might stop that one. But wait; I spy Aketxe, tumbling backwards, apparently helpless to stop Teal Bunbury. At least he tried this time?

Nonetheless, it’s not over ’til it’s over. At 54’ fan favourite (this fan in particular) Jay Chapman sent a well-timed cross towards goal and Jordan Hamilton helped the Revs score an own goal. Shortly after Vanney sent in reinforcements by way of a newly recovered Chris Mavinga to tighten up defense and Sebastian Giovinco the super sub to save the game (little did we know).

Aketxe ends his day of disaster by making way for Mavinga which allowed Michael Bradley to slide back into his holding midfield role. Toronto FC restores much of its defensive harmony with those 2 simple shifts. It was no coincidence that the goals for the Revolution stop there.

Try as they might Toronto struggled to get back into this game. It wasn’t until the 87th minute that after a bizarre coming together in the Revolution box, Auro earned a penalty in the eyes of referee Mark Geiger. Sebastian Giovinco coolly slots it home but then loses all of his chill. He sticks his hand at the throat of a Revs player who tried to knock the ball out of his hand as he galloped back to the centre line.

The red mist clears and Giovinco pulls his hand back before applying any pressure to the gesture but the damage was already done. Giovinco is shown a straight red card after a quick video review but he is less quick to leave the technical area as he argues with anyone and everyone within three feet of him. He finally leaves and the remaining 3 minutes are played out without incident. It’s really over this time; Toronto FC is thwarted yet again. Giovinco has since been fined for his failure to promptly leave the game. (source)

In spite of all the reasons the side had to fail, it appears Toronto FC impaled themselves upon their own sword. The midfield made tough work for a weak defense and the attack didn’t attack enough. That is until they attacked too much and were asked to leave the game.

Post-game there’s the question of Aketxe that has remained unanswered. When Toronto FC signed him from Athletic Bilbao during the winter window it seemed an exciting benefit to winning the cup. A La Liga player from a renowned academy chose to play here.

Alas, the days of average to high-quality players coming from European leagues, even the top ones, and immediately making first team appears to be coming to an end. At least, that has been the case for Aketxe. After a slow start to the season for him he has struggled to make an impact despite plenty of minutes to do so.

His biggest impact has come against the Revs having been left red faced after all 3 goals. A bad start to the season for TFC all around and a period of adjustment makes judging the individual tough, but I for one have lost all hope of making a Toronto FC player out of Ager. My only hope for him at this point is that he proves me wrong. Fellow Toronto fans, let me know your verdict on Aketxe or lack thereof.

Toronto FC faithfuls must wait another week for a glimpse of the team they have come to know and love over the past 2 and a half years or so. Now Giovinco is suspended for a minimum of 1 game, Jozy Altidore is still recovering from surgery and the defensive absences are far from over. Patience will be key for Toronto fans looking for their Reds to be back at their best. Toronto faces Orlando City SC at BMO Field this Friday.

Featured image: mlssoccer.com

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Bear Witness: Toronto FC Starts It’s Playoff Bid with a 2-1 Away to NYRB

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale
Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne // @crissypayne

Song: On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons

So we won the Supporter’s Shield, now what? The logical progression, as the best team in the regular season, would be the MLS Cup. However, recent history has proved this a challenge with only 2 teams winning the MLS double in its modern form (since 2003 when the format was changed Source). In this Toronto FC season, records have fallen and new depths have been explored and Toronto FC have shown on Monday night that they aim to win.

Of a wide spectrum of emotions familiar to football fans across the globe, this game had them all. Through the highs and the lows our viewing party buzzed with passion for our team. Despite some long periods of time spent in eerie silence punctuated by fist banging fits of anger, many of us insisted at the end that we were confident in our team all along.

I approached the game with a certain apprehension, knowing that the New York Red Bulls at the Red Bull Arena might just be our toughest game of the playoffs.

A dodgy penalty, a standard Sebastian Giovinco free kick, a kick in the pubis, some dodgy Red Bulls fans whom Greg Vanney eloquently put in their place (what a dad) and 90+ 5 high altitude minutes later we emerged victorious and on top of the world, a feeling we have grown accustomed to. What looked the start of a rocky second half seemed to stabilize after some minor adjustments and Toronto FC kept calm and won the game.

2-1 is a pretty good scoreline to come home to. 2 away goals and the win, NYRB have to score more goals at BMO Field than the home team; a rare feat for wary travelers this year. And the city is ready for them. We have not appreciated the treatment of our players in the States these past few weeks and we are ready to bring the 12th man to the game on Sunday.

If I had to call to mind one image that summed up the match besides the obvious big moments, it would be something like this: Nick Hagglund (possibly in a cape), leaping 10 feet into the air in some sort of karate kick of a clearance. Insert a written sound effect of your choice to indicate great physical prowess and that about sums up our Super Nicky. That’s not to say that Drew Moor doesn’t get the job done, but there was something incredible about watching Nicky come off the bench to accomplish feats of heroism to save us from uncertain death.

It is that type of depth that will take Toronto FC far in this playoff campaign. Hagglund, who has featured in just 3 games for TFC since mid-May after being sidelined twice by injury, was exactly what TFC needed to see the game off. With vigor and the pluck that makes him well loved by Toronto and by former Toronto FC captain and current TSN commentator Steve Caldwell, he put in a performance when we needed him to keep us ahead in New Jersey.

We will likely require another player to step up on Sunday with the possibility of Victor Vazquez missing out (though not if he has anything to do with it) and the team with the greatest depth in the history of the MLS will be tested once again. Who will be our next hero? A stadium will wait with baited breath for all to be revealed.

Featured image courtesy: @torontofc

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Sunshine On BMO: 4-0 Sweeping of NYCFC

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale
Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne // @crissypayne

Sunday, July 30: 4-0 Win

Song of the Match: Walking on Sunshine – Katrina & The Waves

July was a month of firsts for Toronto FC. First new contract for a manager, first MLS goal for not one, not two, but three players and all Canadian to boot; and of course first place for a lot of the month. I can only speak for myself but I’m a little sad to see it go, but optimistic to see out the summer.

Congratulations are in order for Raheem Edwards’ first MLS goal. It didn’t dawn on me that it was his first until hours later when I happened upon Jay Chapman’s tweet congratulating him. It seemed absurd that his first goal came in the dying embers of July when all season he’d been making huge contributions to the team, be it just by coming off the bench and injecting the team with some much needed energy, or handing out assists like gifts. He’s become so important to the team’s success I nearly forgot how new he is to the scene, not to mention how young.

It was a beautiful afternoon for a beautiful game in our beautiful stadium. The whole day had a glow about it. It’s safe to say at this point that Toronto FC loves playing NYCFC, and Sebastian Giovinco loves it most. In the past year Toronto FC have managed to absolutely steamroll NYCFC 13-2 across 4 games with Giovinco bagging a hat trick in one and a brace in another.

The highlight of the game for me came from the blessing I have to be a Season Seat Holder in the south end Supporters’ Section of BMO Field. I got to bear witness to a small moment not entirely caught on camera that is one of those moments that reminds me why I love the beautiful game.

It was the 75th minute and Toronto FC were awarded a penalty; Giovinco got to the ball first. He picked it up and held it against his chest. He could probably taste the hat trick only seconds away from his clutch. But then he must have thought of Jozy Altidore, of the players we had just gotten back from International Duty and whom Seba looked absolutely delighted to be reunited with. Especially Jozy (the jumbotron had been playing a slow-motion replay of Seba running into Jozy’s arms on the first goal throughout the game).

He marched up to Jozy and proffered the ball to him but Jozy said no at first. The second time Seba held the ball out to Jozy he took it reluctantly, and a hush seemed to fall over the south end. We had seen Jozy miss penalties before, and he looked none too comfortable as he set the ball down and stood back for the whistle. “Come on, Jozy!” a few of us yelled in support.

If Jozy had turned for one last look at Seba in that moment, I’m sure Seba would have offered a wink and a thumbs up. It was with the confidence of Seba, the rest of the team, and the fans that Jozy stepped forward and keenly shot the penalty kick home, effectively burying NYCFC by making it 3-0 with only 15 minutes remaining. Of course, Raheem would hammer in the nails at the very end with our 4th.

That show of sportsmanship is extra special to me coming from Seba, who was accused of selfishness early this season for an outburst. As a Toronto supporter, nothing makes me happier than seeing players come to our city and learn to love Toronto and the team. Seba showed that on Sunday with his enthusiasm, work ethic, and team effort. There’s no better ways we could have asked for to close out the month than 4 goals and a clean sheet in the Six and in the sun.

My only point of contention? I’m a bit perturbed that Jay Chapman lost a starting spot though it was not unexpected. He will perpetually face the issue many of our Canadians guys face which is to compete in a deep squad, particularly in the midfield, and Jay has it the hardest when guys like Michael Bradley and Victor Vazquez are effectively pushing him out of the team. Still, he came off the bench and got the minutes he deserved so I can’t say I’m too disappointed.

Quick shout out to the David Villa jersey wearing NYCFC fan who travelled from New York to stand in the Supporters’ Section. I’d apologize for the torrent of chanting you endured but it was just way too much fun taunting you for the majority of the second half. Thank you for being a good sport about it and my condolences that you chose to stand amongst the most loyal of Toronto FC fans.

Here’s hoping that August is as fruitful as July! See you all this weekend when TFC travels to D.C. to face D.C. United on their home turf.

Featured image courtesy: @torontofc

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Giovinco’s On Fire vs Chicago Fire at BMO Field

Cris Payne - Toronto FC/mlsfemale
Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne @crissypayne

Friday, April 21: 3-1 Win

Song: Two Weeks by Grizzly Bear

The city is in the throes of shaking off one playoff bid (RIP Toronto Maple Leafs (NHL), we came, we fought, we built something great for next year) while simultaneously preparing for round two of another (Let’s go Toronto Raptors! (NBA) and in the midst of the tumult, Toronto FC comfortably plays out a 3-1 win at home to Chicago Fire.

To begin with, I much prefer this dynamic of losing followed by winning to the weird limbo that had been drawing 90% of our games. Now that we lost one it feels a lot more like we are on a trajectory to start winning and keep winning. Sebastian Giovinco was back! The team played well as a unit, and as annoyed as I am to have muddied a clean sheet in the final minutes, the back line is doing very well under the directives of Nick Hagglund. It’s been said he’s doing his best Drew Moor impression. Not sure that Drew agrees and regardless I hope we have Drew back to full health ASAP.

While I have the stage, I would like to clear the air about some behaviour we saw at BMO Field on Friday night and no, it’s not what you’re thinking. In the Toronto FC supporters’ sections we have a song we refer to as “The Bounce” and technically speaking, the Bounce is used only in the case of a win. It’s considered bad luck to Bounce before a game, after a game, basically any time and we should most certainly not Bounce during a game that we haven’t beyond reasonable doubt already won. Well. On Friday we were, to say the least, a little bit excited to be witnessing our first win at home. So much so that we may have, some of us, against the advice of others, started bouncing around the 85th minute…or maybe the 88th

 

What I’m trying to say is, I now feel personally responsible for conceding a goal in the 88th minute, superstitious as I am, and would like to take this opportunity to release a formal apology. We could have had a clean sheet but we were soaring above the clouds and we decided we were safe enough to Bounce. Lesson learned! Probably. So once again, to the team and to the fans who were wise enough to have avoided the Bounce, I am truly sorry.

As for some other behaviours in BMO Field that have taken centre stage in other articles, I think that addressing Giovinco’s outburst (for lack of a better word) and my reaction to it is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it to say his actions of hitting over a metal barricade pillar (seriously what are these things called, when subbed could easily be used to overshadow our entire performance and that sucks but, as someone with a platform to talk about Toronto FC, I’m not going to do that here. Not in this article, anyway.

What Seba did do that’s worth talking about is score a world class free kick in addition to a fine goal to open up the scoring in this match. It certainly looks like we are back to Seba at his best and if coach Greg Vanney has cleared up any ill feelings after that game then it’s cleared up for me as well (source).

In other news something really adorable also happened at the game! Last week I mentioned that Vanney’s mother had passed away, but I neglected to make the connection that as Greg Vanney’s nephew, this also means that Eriq Zavaleta’s grandmother passed away. I’d like to once again express my condolences to the family. It was very lovely to see Zav score his first goal of the season and run over to Vanney to celebrate in honour of someone who I’m sure meant a lot to them. It shows great strength of character on both their parts that they remained focused and present for the team during such a difficult time. For that, I’ll give Zav my Man of the Match vote! Always solid at the back, nice to see him getting on the end of goals as well. Keep up the good work as always.

Apparently I snap my finger and players get minutes so let me be more specific this time: Can Jay Chapman please get a start for us sometime. I think if he had a chance he’d make the most out of it and I’m ready to watch another Canadian rise (newsflash: I’m always ready). Apart from that, I’m extremely happy with the result. There’s something daunting about a World Cup winner, here, in the MLS, trying to win another World Cup, but we kept our heads (for the most part) and we played at what was very nearly our best. It helps also that we had a Canadian in the starting XI, and Raheem Edwards was as dependable as always. I’d also like to welcome Marky Delgado back into the fold. He’s one of our young players I’m always excited about and it was great to see him back at BMO Field and putting in a shift.

Lastly, I’d like to take a moment to say goodbye to Mo Babouli who TFC put on waivers earlier this week (source). I think my feelings can best be described as “disappointed but not surprised” as it was never going to be easy for him to break into the first team given our depth. I wish him all the best in his future and it was a pleasure to watch him play.

Nevertheless, and for the record, this is just a phrase and does count as a Bounce, the Reds go marching on…

Featured image courtesy: @torontofc

Follow and chat with me on twitter: @crissypayne

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Real Salt Lake City 0-0 Toronto FC: A High Altitude Draw

By Cris Payne @crissypayne

Matchday Song – The Gates by Young Empire

I had to laugh a little when, on my way to my Away Day pub of choice, I opened the starting XI tweet to find a side unchanged from our playoff run. It had this feel of continuity to it I wasn’t expecting, and it immediately brought me back to those final days, in all its glory and…well…the other stuff.

It resonated with me because what I wanted, what I think a lot of us wanted, was bloodshed. A group of players returning to the game with a vengeance, with something to prove, with the pain of loss still burning in their veins the way it was in ours. What we ended up with is a team in persistence. A team not just with something to prove, but ongoing in its mission to prove we still have everything to play for.

As nice as it would have been to start the season with a knockout win, to shake off the specter of our first MLS Cup loss and hit the ground running, I’m glad we’ve started as a team that looks ready to take the season in stride. That resonates with me too.

It’s not as often as I’d like that I can compliment a Toronto FC side for not falling asleep at all in a match and for maintaining its shape well, and that’s a positive I’d like to point out from this game. We had some great chances, created by some of the players who struggled most in the game, and despite having less than our fair share of possession we looked equally likely to take 3 points.

My men of the match have to be Jozy Altidore for doing a lot of work at both ends of the pitch, getting into good positions, and having great control most times he was on the ball, as well as Eriq Zavaleta for making some vital interceptions, providing cover in some weak moments and for the pleasure I take in watching him grow as a player every single week. Also, he didn’t play, but shout out to Tosaint Ricketts who, if we had have utilized a third sub (uhhh Greg Vanney? Please, mate!), I’m pretty confident could have been the difference between the two teams tonight.

We also got a glimpse of one of our new guys, Victor Vazquez. He didn’t have a chance to do much but the way he started influencing the game looked promising. Though what didn’t look promising is him replacing Jonathan Osorio because I’m never happy to have 11 players on the field without a single Canadian player representing us. Objectively, I’m excited to see what Vazquez can bring to the table. Still sore about the loss of one Will Johnson though. Miss you, buddy.

I’m a sucker for moments of personality on the pitch, so let me end this with the biggest show of personality in this match, though unfortunately not from our own player and at the expense of our one big chance to win the game. Nick Rimando, anger pouring out of him ceaselessly as he waits for the penalty kick to be taken, cursing the ref up until beyond the whistle, when he paused in his unending appeal for mercy to lean ever so slightly to his right before diving to save the left-sided penalty we all knew Sebastian ‘Seba’ Giovinco would take.

At any rate, it’s a bitter irony that one of our greatest pieces of play was the counter-attacking football that led to the penalty earned. If there’s any take-aways from the game I’ll say it was these: a certain atomic someone needs to start mixing it up with his penalty kicks, and we are thus far undefeated this season! So heads held high, fellow Reds, and let’s see what our boys have in store for us this year.

Featured image Jozy Altidore courtesy: @torontofc

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All For One City

Official Toronto FC Reporter
Official Toronto FC Reporter

By Cris Payne @crissypayne

I’m Cris, Toronto native and Toronto FC supporter. I’m also a member of the Kings in the North Toronto Supporter’s Group. As such, let me start with a very simple and well known idea that embodies our club and our city: The North Remembers.

10.14.15 – He drove straight from Pearson airport to BMO Field. In not much more than the time it takes to head down the 401 to Montreal, Sebastian Giovinco had crossed the Atlantic to be here in front of me, changed and warming up, ready and eager to play. Elsewhere in Toronto a baseball stadium let out a cheer as loud as an explosion as the Toronto Blue Jays fought to keep themselves in the post-season a little longer. Bautista hit a three-run homer and BMO applauded the Blue Jays win irrespective of what was happening on our own pitch at that moment. A truly historic night in Toronto.

Many Toronto FC fans will remember this night forever. Giovinco off the bench to score the most beautiful individual goal I’d ever seen. Clutching my friend next to me, tears springing to my eyes and disbelief sending waves of shock through the entire stadium. 34,000 people held their breath and then screamed like we had won the lottery. That’s what our first playoff clinch in franchise history feels like. That’s what Sebastian Giovinco feels like. That’s what TFC feels like.

Last season the franchise celebrated a decade in Major League Soccer. 10 years in the MLS and most of the collective memory is one of disappointment. Of what had once been branded “the worst team in the world.” But that night when Sebastian Giovinco rushed back from Italy for international duty, to be there in our squad and to score that goal to get us into the playoffs for the first time ever, for me, represents the changing fate of this city.

To whittle it down a bit, here’s where I started, what I’ll never forget. As a female soccer fan, I struggled to find a place for myself in supporting culture due to lack of people in my life who shared my interest. For years I dragged uninvested friends and family to games whenever I could but I was running out of people and I always wanted more. One game I took my dad to, a very wet one as there was heavy rain that day, he marveled at the Supporters Groups across the pitch from us. He loved the energy, the steady pulse of the drums, the fact that they did not slow down even as the torrential downpour fell heavily upon the stadium and it gave me the idea that maybe I’m not so different from them.

I started watching Toronto FC out of a love for soccer but today it’s more than that, BMO Field is home. I never expected to find such immediate comfort in a supporter’s group and be surrounded by so many women just like me. I joined the supporter’s section at the end of the 2015 season as a trial run and immediately felt at home. I had worried that in the most extreme section of the crowd I would find an even more masculine-charged atmosphere but instead I found one of inclusivity. I came for the soccer but now I stay for more than just the soccer but also for the family I’ve made there.

Although I joined the supporter’s section at BMO Field officially just last season, many of my comrades are day one supporters. Singing and cheering through everything. They speak of watching this team and feeling hope like never before. And they have always continued to sing. We remember our struggle and it helps us to celebrate our success.

From the day I joined the Kings in the North I’ve felt like I finally found my place. All of my emotions reflected back at me in the faces of the 3500 strong that comprise our supporter’s section. Soccer is an emotion and so is Toronto FC, one we all share. All for one team, all for one city, and all for one goal: the MLS Cup.

The North Remembers, we hold our history close to our hearts, we learn from our past, and we carve a future that will continue to make us proud to be Toronto FC.

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