Giovinco's individual brilliance unravels Ben Olsen's D.C. United

Posted Jun 7, 2015 by Tyrrell Meertins
One of the few issues that occur when two sides adopt identical systems is the possibility of a dull encounter with minimal created opportunities.
Greg Vanney persisted with a midfield diamond when Toronto FC traveled to RFK Stadium, whereas Ben Olsen’s D.C. United operated in a flat 4-4-2. Without Michael Bradley (international duty) and Jozy Altidore not fit enough to feature in the starting XI, TFC’s verve in attacking zones was partially depleted. Jonathan Osorio started at the tip of the diamond, Collen Warner returned to a shuttler role, and Luke Moore and Sebastian Giovinco led the attack.
The one noticeable improvement from TFC’s previous victory over San Jose Earthquakes was Moore’s combination play with his teammates, along with his ability to hold up and retain possession. In fact, his first involvement of the match saw the TFC striker drop deep to receive the ball, then subsequently playing a reverse ball behind the defence for Giovinco, and although he successfully rounded Andrew Dykstra, but was unable to beat the keeper.
Here, the one vital factor showcased throughout was the lack of fluidity in both attacks. Osorio is renowned for his ball retention – often playing conservative short passes – opposed to incisive defence splitting passes; meanwhile, he doesn’t possess Bradley’s powerful running in his arsenal. Put simply, without a legitimate link in the final third, Chris Rolfe and Colin Doyle admirably tracking the shuttlers down the flanks, and Benoit Cheyrou’s scarce threat from deep, it was Giovinco who once again made the difference.
Despite conceding an early goal from a set piece, the Italian’s performance lifted the Reds to another impressive result. Giovinco’s movement into the channels proved successful, enabling the TFC striker to isolate defenders in 1v1 battles. The Italian comfortably evaded Kofi Opare on two occasions to test Dykstra, before a break ignited by Osorio, saw the Italian skip past Sean Franklin to equalize.
Neither D.C. fullback could cope with Giovinco’s dribbling and movement, as he was the most influential player on the field. Vanney’s men continuously aimed to lob balls in behind the home side’s defence to release the Italian, but TFC missed an additional passer capable of bypassing D.C.’s two banks of four.
Vanney turned to Jackson’s running behind the front two, and the returning Altidore in the latter stages of the match; and although the Reds’ buildup was laboured in open play, the latter’s improvisation and Giovinco’s brilliance made the difference, as the Italian scored another wonder goal from distance.
"It’s hard to have a plan to defend him,” Vanney said. “He’s very difficult to defend because of his quickness and his ability to unbalance you defensively. There are a variety of options on how to defend him, but that’s for other teams to figure out.”
Similar to the away side, Olsen’s men struggled in open play. Cheyrou efficiently broke up play in midfield, but without crosses from wide areas and the strikers failing to combine in the final third, D.C’s attack was fairly disjointed.
Fabian Espindola was the home side’s brightest player, dropping into the channels to receive the ball, but despite recording a match-high (4) key passes, his production in the final third was underwhelming. There was no recognizable pace in D.C’s front four and with Perry Kitchen and Davy Arnaud failing to bypass the away side’s midfield bank with penetrative passes, the TFC back-line was rarely tested.
"It's pretty simple, we went in to the game trying to limit Giovinco's influence and that didn't go so well. But, he's a special player," DC coach Olsen said. "We are going to come up against very good players in this league and he's certainly at the top of that list. On any given day he can do what he did today. He's a difference maker."
Nevertheless, TFC continues to be a formidable force out of possession, producing a remarkable away performance without Bradley, and Altidore to snap D.C.’s 20-match unbeaten run at RFK Stadium. Still, this was quite simple for the Reds – their compact shape was rarely breached, and Giovinco’s individual brilliance in itself merited maximum points.