by CHRISTIAN ARAOS
THE BRONX – He won’t be MVP, but Sebastian Giovinco sure looked like one on Sunday.
The Italian striker scored twice in the first twenty minutes of Sunday night’s Eastern Conference Semifinal Second Leg and finished with a hat trick to knock New York City FC out of the MLS Cup Playoffs with a 5–0 win on the night, 7–0 on aggregate.
Double-teamed and relatively contained for the First Leg, Giovinco took advantage of NYCFC’s commitment going forward and found space to run at their defense. The outcome was inevitable. Giovinco turned Maxime Chanot inside-out on the opening goal in six minutes, and cut up Frederic Brillant to force a penalty that he converted after 20.
“We were pushing to get the goal,” Toronto FC head coach Greg Vanney said. “Two-zero is a dangerous lead and the first team to get the goal tilts the bar in your favor. We came out aggressive and we wanted to get the first goal. We were fortunate that it came pretty early and we were able to get the momentum and add to that.”
Jozy Altidore finished City off with a powerful volley in the 30th minute. Although Vieira fielded both Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo and was truer to the idea of building from the back, City’s midfield was as bullied as their center backs. Lampard was limited to one shot-on-target from distance and Pirlo completed no open-play passes into the Toronto penalty area. Pirlo would be substituted after 74 minutes.
“First, I would congratulate Toronto because over the two legs, they were the better team,” Vieira said. “In the playoffs, you can see the difference between the level of the two teams. We still have to work really hard to build up a strong team because we have a gap between Toronto and ourself. And that’s why I think the best team won and they fully deserve to go to the next round.”
Needing five goals, City switched to the 3-4-3 at halftime with Khiry Shelton replacing R.J. Allen.
It didn’t help. City still could not play their way through Toronto’s midfield and were often caught in possession. Toronto scored their fourth that way as Will Johnson forced the turnover and led the break that Jonathan Osorio finished unmarked.
Despite the attacking intent, City could not get David Villa involved. Villa only took two shots in the First Leg and did not take his first shot of the Second Leg until the 56th minute. Tony Taylor replaced Thomas McNamara early in the second half but it also made little difference.
To hammer home the point, Giovinco finished his hat-trick in second half stoppage time with a toe poke into the far corner.
“Today I can say sorry for the performance we did in the game but it’s not only today, the supporters were amazing this year,” Villa said. “I said in the speech in the last game of the regular season, they are amazing for us. We are happy, we are proud, we have one of the best supporters in the league and we are only two years old, it’s amazing. I say thank you and for today, sorry.”