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Toronto, MLS Need to Recognize How Special Sebastian Giovinco Truly Is

Sebastian Giovinco isn't getting the recognition, but he's one of the best athletes in Toronto and has made TFC fans quickly forget about Jermain Defoe.
Photo by Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

Torontonians could be forgiven for not being totally familiar with Sebastian Giovinco. They might have heard him being referred to by one of his many nicknames: Seba, Gio, or The Atomic Ant (though how could you not want to learn a little more about a man who goes by such a title). The team itself spent nearly the first two months of the 2015 Major League Soccer season on the road while the finishing touches were put on upgrades to the team's home field. Giovinco's English skills aren't all that strong and when he was signed, he wasn't trotted out on billboards and in television commercials as part of a much-hyped unveiling a la Jermain Defoe, a year earlier.


But on Sunday, in a 4-4 draw against New York City FC, three goals in nine minutes gave Giovinco TFC's first-ever hat trick. He was also inches away from scoring another one as he put a penalty kick off the post, and deserves nearly all the credit for the TFC's fourth goal of the match after he stormed down the wing with the kind of unrepentant aplomb TFC fans have grown accustomed to.

READ MORE: When the Grass Isn't Always Greener

The monster season Giovinco's having, however, wasn't enough to get him voted into the MLS All-Star Game on Monday—a snub that had TFC fans seeing red. It's even more shocking considering Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard, who've both yet to play a league match with their respective clubs, made it as MLS commissioner Don Garber's additions to the team. While it's likely Giovinco isn't losing any sleep on missing out on the fan-voted starting 11 (and may very well be named to the team by All-Star team coach Pablo Mastroeni) the fact he wasn't voted in by league-wide MLS fans mirrors the lack of acknowledgement he's getting in Toronto for carrying Toronto FC on his back.

It's time for the city to get wise to what could be one of the greatest single-season performances by a Toronto-based athlete in recent memory.

Giovinco's 11 goals match Defoe's total from last year, and he's just four away from tying his single-season professional career high. He's scoring at a mighty clip and all but squashed the naysayers who doubted his viability after being signed for a reported $7 million per season for five years, making him the highest paid player in MLS history.


Want to see a player do what Toronto sports fans now believe isn't even possible, with the memories of Phil Kessel still fresh? Watch Giovinco do everything possible for his team, like third baseman Josh Donaldson is doing for the Blue Jays.

Without Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, who were on Gold Cup duty with the US National team, Giovinco showcased versatility Sunday. He scored with a roaring strike from a shade inside the 18-yard box, with a deft touch in close, and from the penalty spot. His first goal, from the spot, came after a crunching body check from NYCFC defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe who has ten inches on him. Giovinco got up without a trace of dramatics and put his kick in the same spot he had attempted earlier.

If it's at times tough to exactly define what Giovinco is doing, it's because TFC has never seen the likes of this kind of performance before. Giovinco is doing all that is asked of him and he's flying pretty low under the radar while doing so, fighting to gain recognition in his adopted home.

Giovinco sits second in MLS scoring with 11 goals. His totals become even more remarkable when you consider he's played two fewer games than leading scorer Kei Kamara, and he's scored half of the TFC's road goals.

He can switch back and forth easily between midfield and striker, but the calm and ease with which he's scoring goals right now is alarming. When Defoe arrived in Toronto, TFC brass had fans believe he was the type of player who could both dazzle crowds and take the team on his back to the playoffs. It has been Giovinco who has done what Defoe could not. Some believed that Defoe's red-carpet welcome in Toronto was justified and perhaps he was one of the greatest and most well-recognized athletes worldwide to ever play in Toronto. It's perhaps unfair that the Atomic Ant has had to rise out of the ashes of the miserable memory of Defoe, but they say the best way to get over a breakup is to find someone else. At this point in time, kudos may be due to the TFC brass for finding fans a much more agreeable dancing partner.

His team, however, still needs to convincingly rally behind him. The club's only won four times in the seven games he's scored. It's here where the concern lies: at this point last season the team had a 7-5-5 record and sat comfortably in a playoff position. It would then go on to lose six of its next nine as the off-field drama with Defoe, his happiness in Torontoand injuries flared up. That Giovinco has been kept out of the spotlight so far can only benefit him for the rest of the season.

There's still a full three months of matches left in the MLS season, which leaves plenty of time for Toronto to learn Giovinco's name and stand in awe of what he's doing. It's fitting, because there's still so much left for him to accomplish.