In the end it was fitting.
Sebastian Giovinco’s stunning goal against the New York Red Bulls secured Toronto FC’s first playoff berth in club history. The fact Giovinco arrived from Rome hours earlier after starring as a super sub for the Azzurri during Italy’s final Euro 2016 qualifiers quickly became the stuff of legends.
What’s there left to say about the Atomic Ant? The 28-year-old has registered the best statistical season in MLS history. He’s set a number of club and league records. He became the first player to tally at least 20 goals and 10 assists in a season. He’s won the Golden Boot, barring a #DecisionDay goal explosion by Robbie Keane. He’s passed Chris Wondolowski’s mark for goals plus assists in a season. He’s the MVP and it isn’t all that close.
MLSSoccer.com’s James Grossi spoke to coaches and players around the league to get their thoughts on Giovinco’s superlative season.
"You could easily say, ‘Yes [it’s been the best season ever by an MLS player],’” San Jose Earthquakes head coach Dom Kinnear told Grossi. “And not just because of the stats, but because of the quality of his goals.”
“For me he’s the MVP,” said Reds captain Michael Bradley in October.
Kei Kamara has been sensational this season, as has Keane and Benny Feilhaber. But Giovinco is the clear cut MVP choice for head coach Greg Vanney.
“I think [Seba] is the best; but every [club] has a guy that's very influential on the attacking side,” said Vanney in August. “I enjoy it as much as a fan, as I do as a coach. It's mesmerizing at times.”
Giovinco’s call up to the Italian National Team served as a landmark moment for MLS. Not only did Giovinco leave Europe in his prime, but he showed his fellow European players that a trip across the pond wouldn’t necessarily end their international playing days.
The way Jermain Defoe’s time in Toronto came to an end left TFC supporters in a bad place. Could they put their faith in another European star after being burned so badly? The answer was yes.
From arriving earlier than expected from Juventus to jetting back to Toronto last Wednesday in order to help the club make history, Giovinco has been everything GM Tim Bezbatchenko hoped he would be and more.
Giovinco’s willingness to start his MLS journey earlier than planned was massive. The Reds survived their grueling road trip to start the season thanks in large part to Giovinco.
“I’m in love with this city, the lifestyle,” he told the Globe and Mail’s Cathal Kelly in August.
The love is mutual.