Monday, January 19, 2015

The Incredible Weight of Sebastian Giovinco

Giovinco! Oh, YEAH!!
Some days, there are stories you just can’t avoid...even when you want to, say, post on your own team's future (and barring the signing of another Italian International, and in his prime, that post on the Portland Timbers' future goes up tomorrow). It is damned hard to duck Toronto FC’s signing of Sebastian Giovinco, an Italian player in the prime of his career, and one a minimum of three months away from suiting up for the Azzurri (see the date on the video in this article...speaking of...).

The tall claim in the title of that article/video kicked off a I call them threads? (Sorry, old.) Does Giovinco possess "a level of overall talent yet to be seen in MLS"? Smart and lively as the man looks in that video, and then there’s the pedigree to consider, the short answer is....I don't know. Part of me wonders why anyone would bother with the question. What point does it serve to determine precisely how tall Giovinco stands in the historical hierarchy of MLS DPs? (And who’s bringing the crates, because 5’ 4”?) The man will show up, he’ll do his thing and...well, we'll see won't we? Maybe he's a prick and his teammates will hate him. Maybe he’ll inspire Toronto to their best season ever (NOTE: low bar). Time will tell.

OK, yes, I get what animates the question: does Giovinco's arrival further legitimize MLS's global brand? Again, and sorry, but I don't know. The more immediate concern comes with what his salary(!) does to the Collective Bargaining Agreement presently under negotiation (and does that get capitalized, or does it just warrant capitalization). That’s a big, complex issue that 1) I can't really get my head around at the moment, and 2) the league will undoubtedly keep the final settlement secret, so, let's just hope it all works out and everyone gets richer. Right?

My favorite angle on all this came from (probably) the Toronto FC front office, notably the claim that Giovinco "completes [the TFC] puzzle." Maybe. Or it could be that TFC loves its shiny toys very, very much. Too much, possibly. Pull up TFC's roster and you'll see those eye-catching signings. What you'll also see are a bunch of defenders that are a year older and a midfield that didn't do an excellent job of covering them. I base this on the fact that TFC tied for fourth-worst defense in MLS (58 goals against) – and while playing in an Eastern Conference that is, generally, regarded as the weaker conference.

The take-away from all this is pretty straightforward. Toronto very likely did get one helluva player in Giovinco - and his signing does look pretty amazing in context. Even allowing for the usual adjustment period, consider his numbers and an entirely respectable level of play in one of the world's undisputed top leagues, as well as a solid number of caps for one of the world's undisputed top national teams: details like that speak volumes, at volume. The question, for TFC fans in particular, is one of balance. Do they have too many great parts in too few places to really compete?

To put the entire weight of the answer on one man's aging legs: can Steven Caldwell manage a defense of relatively unheralded parts competently enough for all the (undoubtedly) beautiful work at the other end to hold up? Come next November no signing, no matter how big, will paper over another missed post-season.

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