Sebastian Giovinco

AP Photo/Adam Hunger

Toronto FC sells Sebastian Giovinco to Al-Hilal

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An all-time MLS great is leaving the league.

Toronto FC has sold Sebastian Giovinco to Al-Hilal, ending the Italian’s torrential time in Major League Soccer.

It’s not hyperbole to say that Giovinco helped reshape the image of MLS.

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TFC general manager Ali Curtis called Giovinco “any GM’s dream” and addressed the challenges of replacing him via TorontoFC.ca:

“We believe in consistency, so this transfer hits hard in a lot of places. I have so much respect for Sebastian as a player and what he has meant to the organization. His departure presents both challenges and opportunities. Obviously, replacing a player like Sebastian is difficult, but we are working diligently and are confident that we will be adding a new Designated Player in the near future who will be an exciting addition to our team.”

Now 32, Giovinco arrived at TFC from Juventus in 2015 and debuted at the age of 28. He led TFC to its first MLS Cup, scoring 83 goals with 51 assists in 142 matches.

Toronto was 1W-5L without Giovinco last season, missing the MLS Playoffs by 14 points.

Giovinco was a force in the club’s run to the CONCACAF Champions League Final, spearheaded their Canadian Championship win, and managed 18 goals and 14 assists in 38 matches across all competitions.

The move does open a Designated Player spot for new Reds general manager Ali Curtis.

Al-Hilal is the home of ex-Premier League players Andre Carrillo and Bafetimbi Gomis.

Giovinco out, Boyd in at Toronto FC?

AP Photo/Michael Probst
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Sebastian Giovinco has one year left on his Toronto FC contract, but also wants his next contract sorted quickly.

That may mean a move abroad, as the Italian wizard considers interest from Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal.

Selling Giovinco would allow TFC to cash in on their star, and may also prod Jozy Altidore to the door — Liga MX? — ahead of a new contract as Ali Curtis reshapes the championship team reared by Tim Bezbatchenko.

Al-Hilal is managed by former Benfica and Sporting Lisbon boss Jorge Jesus, and has Bafetimbi Gomis, Andre Carrillo, and Jonathan Soriano on the books.

The move comes as Toronto is linked with oft-injured Darmstadt striker Terrence Boyd. The Reds acquired the top spot in the allocation order from FC Cincinnati this week in a trade for Nick Hagglund, and USMNT striker Boyd is believed to require allocation to arrive in MLS.

Boyd, 27, was one of the top American talents abroad when he sealed a 2014 move to RB Leipzig following a standout pair of seasons at Rapid Wien, but has played just 43 times for RBL and Darmstadt.

He scored four times in 24 Bundesliga matches during the club’s 2017-18 relegation campaign, but counts just one appearance of more than 15 minutes amongst his 13 times on the field for the 2.Bundesliga side.

Boyd was last capped in 2016.

Make sure to tune-in for our special Transfer Deadline Day show on NBCSN on Thursday, Jan. 31 from 5 p.m. ET as we focus on all of the moves across the Premier League in the January window. You can stream the show live online right here.

Sebastian Giovinco recalled to Italy squad

AP
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Toronto FC striker Sebastian Giovinco has been recalled to the Italian national team after three years away.

The “Atomic Ant” has received his first call-up from new Azzurri boss Roberto Mancini for the friendly against Ukraine and the UEFA Nations League clash versus Poland.

Giovinco, 31, was last called up by Italy in 2015 and his decision to head to Major League Soccer and play for Toronto FC was frowned upon by former Italian national team managers.

Toronto’s star forward has scored 82 goals in 139 appearances for the reigning MLS champions, but with TFC struggling to reach the MLS Cup playoffs with four games of the 2018 campaign to go, this is a good time for Giovinco to head away for the international break.

Below is the Italy squad in full, as Mario Balotelli and Andrea Belotti miss out.


NYCFC hold off 10-man TFC to make Shield race even tighter

Christopher Katsarov/The Canadian Press via AP
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The game in 200 words (or less): In a battle of two teams chock-full of stars, the marquee names made the greatest impact — for better and for worse — in a battle of Eastern Conference titans on Sunday. New York City FC topped Toronto FC, 3-2 at Yankee Stadium, on the back of goals scored by established superstar David Villa and rapidly rising star Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (twice). On the other side, Sebastian Giovinco and Victor Vazquez got the goals for TFC, but it was another of the Reds’ highly paid stars, Jozy Altidore, who will go down as the goat for his 11th-minute red card. Altidore, seemingly frustrated after Alexander Callens won a midfield battle between the two players, kicked out at the NYCFC defender with the ball already out of play. Referee Chico Grajeda made the only correct decision, showing Altidore the red card for violent conduct. NYCFC’s victory returns them to level footing (47 points) with the New York Red Bulls (though, still behind on tiebreakers) for second place in the East, one point back of first-place Atlanta United. TFC, the defending champions with largely the exact same roster as last season, sit ninth, now seven points back of the sixth and final playoff place after Montreal and Philadelphia picked up points on Saturday.

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Three Four moments that mattered

11′ — Altidore’s petulance earns him an early shower — Frustrations are becoming very, very visible in Toronto.

15′ — Villa makes it 1-0 minutes later — It doesn’t matter if Anton Tinnerholm hit his shot 90 degrees into the wrong direction (he was still credited with the assist), because Villa clean up the mess and go it alone.

27′ — Giovinco finishes some slick build-up for 1-1 — Up a man or down a man, it doesn’t really affect the brilliance that is Sebastian Giovinco. Michael Bradley and Vazquez weren’t bad in quickly progressing the ball either, and the Atomic Ant made a pretty difficult finish look easy.

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88′ — Tajouri-Shradi smashes a volley for the winner — From nothing, to something, very quickly.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Ismael Tajouri-Shradi

Goalscorers: Villa (15′), Giovinco (27′), Tajouri-Shradi (36′, 88′), Vazquez (51′)

ATLUTD, TFC each blow a lead, settle for testy 2-2 draw

Photo credit: @MLS
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The game in 100 words (or less more): Atlanta United versus Toronto FC is a playoff matchup the world must witness in 2018. The former is (just about) inarguably the best team in MLS, and the latter is still the defending champions slowly (and finally) awakening from their slumber. Tata Martino’s side came into the weekend with a four-point lead in the Supporters’ Shield race (with barely double-digit games remaining), and nearly grew it to seven (before New York City FC face Vancouver Whitecaps later on Saturday), but ultimately settled for a draw after conceding a stoppage-time equalizer (Tosaint Ricketts) to drop a pair of points. Josef Martinez (26 goals) scored twice more — his sixth multi-goal game of 2018 — to move to within one of tying the single-season MLS record (Bradley Wright-Phillips, Chris Wondolowski and Roy Lassiter). Atlanta, who have lost just once since mid-May, held TFC to just five shots (two on target, both goals) over 90 minutes — to Atlanta’s 22 and seven. Up 1-0 at halftime (Sebastian Giovinco), TFC would have moved to within two points of the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with a win, but could now finish the weekend as many as seven points back, depending on what New England Revolution and Montreal Impact do. It is no longer “early.”

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Three Four Five moments that mattered

45+1′  — Giovinco coolly finishes past Guzan for 1-0 — Jozy Altidore‘s absence absolutely devastated TFC for much of this season, as his hold-up and playmaking abilities couldn’t be replaced. It looks like the easiest part of the below passage, but neither the cross from Auro nor the finish from Giovinco are possible without Altidore’s patience, vision and perfectly weight ball for the overlapping full back.

51′ — Martinez wins, converts a penalty to make it 1-1 — Every instance of contact is now a foul. There is no point to video review in MLS, because the league’s referees either 1) don’t know how to use it properly, or 2) refuse to use it.

67′ — Martinez heads home for 2-1 — His diving antics aside, Martinez is an absolute joy to watch. He’s relentless, he’s brilliant with his movement and timing of runs, he’s always in the exact spot defenders don’t want him to be. He’s also got an embarrassment of chance-creating talent around him. Hector Villalba, for instance would be the best attacker for a number of MLS teams. In Atlanta, it’s Oh yeah, they have Villalba, too. That seems unfair.

90+1′ — Ricketts bundles home a late equalizer — All-out attacking is the only way Atlanta know to play, and every now and then it costs them dearly. Like, for instance, when they get caught on the counter with a one-goal lead in second-half stoppage time. Self-inflicted wounds, to be sure.

90+5′ — Mavinga sees red, will miss a few games — Chris Mavinga, clearly frustrated (and perhaps provoked) lost his head just as the final whistle was blown. Leandro Gonzalez Pirez was the recipient of a forceful hand to the face — and fell to the ground like a 500-pound sack of potatoes, of course. Mavinga will get a two- or three-game suspension, and Jozy Altidore might have to answer a few questions about placing his hand around the neck/throat of Miguel Almiron, who was part of the events which set the above in motion, as the two walked off the field. Again, if we could get these two teams to face each other in November, that would be fantastic.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Josef Martinez

Goalscorers: Giovinco (45+1′), Martinez (53′ – PK, 67′), Ricketts (90+1′)