TORONTO — Drake and Weezy provided the locker-room soundtrack from a boombox. A few super-sized Budweiser cans lay on their floor, their job done.
Toronto FC was celebrating its first home win of the season, a 1-0 victory over the Portland Timbers.
The post-game beer Saturday came courtesy of some excited team owners, according to one player. The goal came in the fifth minute from Sebastian Giovinco, who put on an MVP-like show.
The five-foot-four Italian sparkplug, who has six goals in his last nine games in all competitions, could have had a hat-trick and two assists in the first half alone.
“Tell me about it,” said Toronto fullback Justin Morrow. “I see it every day at practice.”
Toronto (4-5-1) had other chances to add to its total but failed to convert, making for a slightly nervy ending before 23,569 on a sunny afternoon at BMO Field. Portland goalie Adam Kwarasey was hard to beat on the day.
“On another day if we can get the second goal then the third and the fourth probably come with it,” said TFC captain Michael Bradley.
“There were some good moments for sure,” he added. “I didn’t think it was our best day. I think we’re just scratching the surface in terms of what we can be in sharpness and really finishing teams off.”
Many of those fine moments came via the shifty Giovinco, leading the attack in the absence of the injured Jozy Altidore.
“He was busy,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney, which is like saying Dickens could write a little.
“The more times we can get him on the ball, the more touches we can give him, the better we’ll be as a team.”
Vanney offered a pithier take on the Italian later in his news conference.
“Every time he gets the ball, something exciting is potentially going to happen.”
The pint-sized forward was razor-sharp, hard to corral and dangerous off both feet, drifting in and out of the Portland defence like a sleek speedboat among a fleet of cruise ships. Holding midfielder Benoit Cheyrou was a calming influence, playing himself out of tight situations. And Bradley delivered some killer passes.
Giovinco opened the game with a bang in the fifth minute, beating a diving Kwarasey with a spectacular left-footed shot from 30 yards.
The former Juventus forward described the strike simply as “bello” — beautiful.
Giovinco unnerved the Timbers all day. After scoring, he nutmegged fullback Alvas Powell during a slashing run into the box and delivered a swerving cross with the outside of his foot from the goalline on another attack — all in the first 15 minutes.
Things went from bad to worse for the Timbers when Argentine playmaker Diego Valeri limped off in the 25th minute after seemingly turning an ankle. The Portland designated player was making just his third start since off-season surgery.
Giovinco came close to adding a second goal soon after but his close-range shot deflected off teammate Jonathan Osorio. Luke Moore, Giovinco’s strike partner, also had several good scoring chances.
The Timbers offered more in the second half but couldn’t break down the home side.
“I thought the second half was very good and that is what we are going to build on,” said Portland coach Caleb Porter. “The last two games we have given up a goal early and when you are trying to get points on the road, you can’t do that.”
The game, only the second at home for Toronto, was the first since news that the CFL Argonauts will start playing at BMO Field next year. Disgruntled fans promised to wear black and it showed in the South Stand where supporters held up signs saying “Keep Your Promises” and “RIP BMO.”
Vanney used Eriq Zavaleta at centre back instead of Nick Hagglund, pointing to Zavaleta’s experience at Chivas in playing against Portland striker Fanendo Adi.
Toronto’s Chris Konopka, continuing in goal for the injured Joe Bendik, followed his team-of-the-week selection with a shutout.
Canadian international midfielder Will Johnson was on the Portland bench but did not see action in his return to the Timbers’ first-team roster since suffering a badly broken leg here last September.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press