Rather than just spending money, Toronto FC is now spending money in logical places. The addition of Sebastian Giovinco from Juventus gives the Reds one of the highest-powered attacks in Major League Soccer.
Giovinco should slot in underneath Jozy Altidore, another big offseason signing, as a second striker or central attacking midfielder and ahead of Michael Bradley. Should new Toronto manager Greg Vanney want to play three in central midfield, the likes of young Canadian international Kyle Bekker would complement both his partners.
Giovinco’s most productive season in front of goal was his last with Parma, when he scored 16 goals in all competitions in 2011-12 before moving to Juventus. In 21 caps with Italy, his only goal came against Japan at the 2013 Confederations Cup. However, he’ll be expected to create goals rather than score them in Toronto.
Perhaps more importantly, a true No. 10 will allow Bradley to play his best role.
Aside from a 2-2 friendly against Mexico with the United States in April 2014, Bradley hasn’t looked as capable as the primary playmaker for the U.S., which is chiefly where he plays it. Vanney said in his season-ending press conference that he would like Bradley to play deeper, despite where U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann played him during the 2014 World Cup.
“I think Jurgen feels he is a player who should be higher up the field, but I don’t know that Jurgen and Michael see things exactly eye to eye,” he said. “I don’t see Michael as a playmaker. I see Michael as a guy who can move pieces around and control the speed of the game.”
Before Klinsmann’s experiment with Bradley’s position and a hamstring injury to Altidore in the first game of the World Cup, the midfielder’s deep-lying distribution and late runs into the penalty area made him a major threat for the U.S. He’s at his best controlling the game’s tempo and spraying passes to teammates in front of him.
In Altidore, Toronto acquired a target forward in need of a revival after a poor time at Sunderland, where he only managed three goals in all competitions across one and a half seasons. Giovinco’s mobility should allow Altidore to stay more central in front of goal, where he is at his best.
As Toronto currently has four Designated Players on its roster, Gilberto seems to be the odd man out. The Brazilian played a pivotal role as the team’s second-leading goalscorer behind Jermain Defoe in 2014, but his is the most dispensable — and easiest to move within MLS — of the four DP contracts.
Both Altidore and Giovinco are expected to command salaries greater than Bradley’s guaranteed $6.5 million last year, while Gilberto made $1.2 million.
In fact, Giovinco’s reported salary figure at Toronto, if he were still at Juve, could put him among the highest-paid players in Serie A.
To become an MLS contender, though, Toronto will also have to shore up a back line that conceded 54 goals and finished with a minus-10 goal difference. In a surprise move, the Reds drafted Clément Simonin, a defender out of North Carolina State who wasn’t even in attendance or listed in the draft media guide. The club also lost Canadian international Doneil Henry to West Ham after he played the 2014 season on loan in Toronto from Cypriot club Apollon Limassol.
If it can add more experience in the back, and Vanney can put the pieces together — and maybe you’ve heard this one before — Toronto could be a playoff team in 2015. The league expanding its format to let six teams in each conference into the postseason certainly helps its case as well. The manager expressed his confidence in the press release announcing Giovinco’s signing, although he won’t join the team until July, after the Serie A season ends.
“Sebastian Giovinco is a complete player with the ability to not only create, but also to score goals, as he’s proven throughout his career in Italy,” Vanney said. “We are very excited for the 2015 season, and adding another important piece to an already solid core group only makes us stronger.”