TORONTO — The San Jose Earthquakes are the latest MLS team undone by Sebastian Giovinco.
The Italian dynamo set up two goals and played a key part in the other as Toronto FC downed San Jose 3-1 Saturday to end the Quakes’ unbeaten streak at five games. Giovinco also hit the post twice himself.
Justin Morrow, Warren Creavalle and Luke Moore scored for Toronto (5-5-1) in a game with no shortage of scoring chances — many created by Giovinco. It was the first goal of the season for all three Toronto players.
Giovinco has had a hand in 11 of Toronto’s 17 goals, scoring five and assisting on six others. The diminutive former Juventus star has a goal or an assist in nine of Toronto’s 11 games and was a one-man wrecking crew Saturday.
His six assists tie Toronto’s single-season record. And he has 23 games to go.
The Italian has pace, guile and vision. And he’s deceptively strong for his five-foot-four 135-pound frame.
“He’s incredibly hard to get a hold off,” said Toronto coach Greg Vanney, a former defender himself. “He’s so quick. He finds gaps. He gets isolated in one-on-one (situations) and then you’re in big trouble. If you get two people or three people around him, then Michael (Bradley) is coming through a gap.”
“He’s an incredibly creative player,” said Creavalle. “If you get in good spots, there’s a good chance he can find you. And one on one isn’t something the other team wants to see.”
Added midfielder Benoit Cheyrou: “We know Seba is able to make a difference each time he has the ball. He’s so fast, so quick and with his technique he can destabilize all the defences in the league, I think.”
Vanney says Toronto is also doing a better job of getting Giovinco the ball.
Chris Wondolowski, with his eighth goal of the campaign and the 101st of his career, scored for San Jose (5-5-3).
Thunderstorms made for a soggy leadup to the game, with fans confined under the BMO Field stands for a while and the 5 p.m. ET kickoff delayed 23 minutes due to the threat of lightning. Attendance was announced at 17,711.
As he has done all season, Giovinco tormented defenders and hit the crossbar in the 16th minute after dancing his way past the San Jose defence. He rattled the post again in stoppage time with a free kick.
Giovinco was the playmaker for the opening goal in the 22nd minute, beating a defender in the box after some slick Toronto passing before sending a cross for a diving Morrow to head it in.
San Jose equalized two minutes later via a Wondolowski penalty after Ashtone Morgan was called for a handball. The Toronto fullback had his arm up but had little choice in the matter as it was hit by a Wondolowski header from close range.
Creavalle put Toronto ahead in the 33rd minute with a low shot from just outside the penalty box that was teed up by Moore. San Jose can feel hard done by, with the goal coming on a turnover by Sanna Nyassi who was taken down by Giovinco. But Nyassi made the most of the contact.
Giovinco set up Toronto’s third goal in the 71st, sending in a clinical cross that was tapped in by Moore.
Giovinco sent Bradley on his way in the 76th minute, but his close-range shot was pushed wide by sliding defender Jordan Stewart. Then the Italian unlocked the Quakes defence with a seeing-eye pass to Jonathan Osorio in the box only to have the Canadian international direct the ball wide.
Giovinco even tried to beat goalie David Bingham from 40-yards-plus as the game went into stoppage time.
Toronto has won two straight at home and is unbeaten in its last three games (2-0-1). Vanney, meanwhile, is unbeaten in his lucky mauve shirt.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press