A Hero’s Re­turn!

Se­bas­tian Giovinco fi­nally sounds off on ab­sence: ‘I won’t stop’ un­til Reds win Cup

24 Hours Toronto - - News - KUR­TIS LAR­SON

There’s some­thing an­tic­i­pa­tory about the Atomic Ant’s im­pend­ing re­turn from in­jury.

The piece Se­bas­tian Giovinco penned Wed­nes­day for The Play­ers’ Tri­bune seemed prophetic, as if Toronto FC’s cham­pi­onship script has been writ­ten.

It’s been that way for most of a cam­paign that’s seen TFC cruise to a Sup­port­ers’ Shield ti­tle amid be­ing dubbed the best team in MLS his­tory.

Mean­while, Giovinco’s pro­longed ab­sence has be­come a foot­note in TFC’s in­cred­i­ble run dur­ing the sec­ond half of this sea­son.

It’s not of­ten coach Greg Van­ney avoids ques­tions about his star player’s sta­tus post-game.

How­ever, Giovinco wasn’t men­tioned after the Reds’ Shield-clinch­ing win. He was a ghost post-game.

On Wed­nes­day, we heard from him — a re­minder to fans that the ace up TFC’s sleeve is ea­ger to re­turn from a quadri­ceps in­jury that’s seen him miss a month of ac­tion.

“I didn’t come all this way to not see Toronto to win a cham­pi­onship,” Giovinco wrote, adding TFC “won’t stop” un­til the Reds win an MLS Cup.

Ex­pect the ova­tion for Giovinco to be im­mense when his num­ber’s an­nounced prior to kick­off next week­end against the em­bat­tled Mon­treal Im­pact.

Toronto FC fans know their club has one of the few play­ers who can sin­gle-hand­edly de­liver an MLS cham­pi­onship.

Many of those fans be­lieve the Reds would have claimed the Philip F. An­schutz Tro­phy last De­cem­ber had Giovinco not been forced out in ex­tra time due to in­jury.

“I could ask what would have hap­pened If I hadn’t had to be subbed out be­cause I was cramp­ing,” Giovinco wrote in

The Play­ers’ Tri­bune.

“But I think it’s the same whether you win or lose … you have to move for­ward. You have to keep go­ing.”

Im­mor­tal­ity beck­ons. The end of this sea­son, the im­pend­ing play­off stretch, has been set up for Giovinco’s tri­umphant re­turn.

There’s noth­ing else out in front of him.

No MVP race. No Golden Boot Award.

What mat­ters now is de­liv­er­ing for fans left stunned at last sea­son’s de­feat.

“I’ll be hon­est,” Giovinco wrote. “I still don’t un­der­stand a lot of the chants. But I do know when I hear my name be­ing sung by the crowd at BMO.

“I hear it. And I feel it,” he added. “Call our sea­son a come­back story, a re­demp­tion story, what­ever you want ... We’re not sat­is­fied.”

It feels strange to call this Giovinco’s worst sea­son.

The Atomic Ant is eighth in MLS scor­ing de­spite miss­ing one-third of TFC’s games.

But the de­ci­sion was made a long time ago to cover Giovinco in bub­ble wrap in an­tic­i­pa­tion of Novem­ber and De­cem­ber, when he needs to earn his $7 mil­lion an­nual pay­cheque.

It’s like TFC, the best team even with­out the most dy­namic at­tacker MLS, is set to get a new player in time for the post­sea­son.

Ex­pec­ta­tions should weigh heav­ily.

“I re­ally think that we’re so close,” Giovinco wrote for The

Play­ers’ Tri­bune. “That there were only lit­tle pieces that were miss­ing.”

Giovinco named Victor Vazquez as be­ing the per­fect com­pli­ment to the club’s big time con­trib­u­tors: Michael Bradley and Jozy Alti­dore.

In say­ing that, though, TFC’s pint-sized Ital­ian likely didn’t re­al­ize he’s be­come ex­actly that: The “miss­ing piece” for a side that’s ex­pected to win a ti­tle after hav­ing it stolen from them last year.

The pres­sure’s on one of the league’s rich­est play­ers to per­form later this month and when tem­per­a­tures turn colder.

It’s why he’s here.

GETTY IMAGES/PHOTO

Above, the pres­sure is squarely on Reds su­per­star Se­bas­tian Giovinco as he gets set to re­turn to the lineup with the hopes of de­liv­er­ing an MLS Cup vic­tory. Left, Pan­thers quar­ter­back Cam New­ton landed him­self in hot wa­ter fol­low­ing his han­dling of a fe­male re­porter’s ques­tion yes­ter­day.

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