Giovinco

Toronto FC 2019 Season Preview by Jared Young

Canadian Pastoral

 Perhaps the best novel by the late great author Philip Roth was American Pastoral. Roth introduced us to a character nicknamed  “The Swede” who followed a legendary athletic career as a youth with equal success as an adult, and lived a life that anyone would admire. From this contented perch the reader then watches as idealism and bad luck bring his idyllic life to ruins. It’s an unforgettable story of how the American dream can swallow itself and quickly turn tragedy.

 As I prepared to write this preview of Toronto FCs 2019 season this story kept resurfacing in my mind. Both are a riches to rags stories with no clear answers, and ones that grapples with the trade off of maintaining the status quo versus continuing to push. Not a year ago Toronto FC was on top of the soccer world in North America. They had just completed the greatest season in MLS history (yes, it still is) and were taking down Liga MX giants on their way to another height in winning the CONCACAF Champions League. They were achieving things like no MLS team before them. And then something happened….

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Expected Narratives: Seeing Reds by Ian L.

xN is our weekly look at what you can expect to read, write, and discuss about Major League Soccer this week. We take a look at each prospective narrative and rate it based on its strength and whether or not it has any actual merit.

Last week, I asserted that if Toronto failed to secure three points this week that the talk of the league would be whether or not last year’s all conquering heroes would even manage to make the playoffs this season. Unsurprisingly, they failed to acquire those three points, surprisingly nobody is really talking about it all that much. Well, since I’m CNO (Chief Narrative Officer) of this league now (self appointed, the term is lifelong meaning it remains until such a time as I die or get bored. Smart money on the latter.), I’m going to go ahead and make it a narrative because a) it’s important and b) I can’t really think of another thing to write about this week. I mean I guess we could cover VAR again, but NAH.

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Expected Narratives: VAR She Blows by Ian L.

xN is our weekly look at what you can expect to read, write, and discuss about Major League Soccer this week. We take a look at each prospective narrative and rate it based on its strength and whether or not it has any actual merit.

VAR giveth and VAR taketh away. Despite having a brand new soccer specific stadium to show off, the emergence of a free kick challenger to Giovinco’s throne, and David Villa’s 400th (and 401st) career goal, surprise surprise, everybody is going to be talking about video review again this week. There’s no sense putting this off any longer than necessary. Let’s just get right into it with a comment I received a number of times following last week’s entry:

No, Ian, VAR is actually terrible
Narrative Strength: Evergreen
Narrative Accuracy: B-

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Toronto FC 2017 Season Preview by Aaron Nielsen

After years of ineptness Toronto FC finally has become a competitive club in MLS. Never afraid of spending the money, the Canadian side's results on the field never reflected the club’s ambitions for making the playoffs. They finally made it for the first time in 2015 and followed that up in 2016 by hosting the MLS Cup Championship game, though they lost to the champions Seattle. Toronto FC's success relied and will continue to rely on their three DPs: Sebastian Giovinco, Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley. The three players have a combined salary of over $20,000,000 per season and Toronto FC will be dependent on them if they expect to repeat their success in 2017.

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Cracking the Code: Analyzing the Audi Player Index by Kevin Shank

In my Sports Analytics class at Saint Joseph's University, my professor would always stress the importance of having a valid data source; “Put garbage in, get garbage out,” he would tell the class. If the data has a bias, isn’t random, or is miscalculated, then any resulting conclusion is not credible. In order to have a sound analytic method, it is imperative that the data source is not “garbage.” For the course’s final project, I chose to analyze players’ cost efficiency and also use binary integer programming to build an optimal lineup. Ironically enough, I decided to have my data source be none other than the Audi Player Index.

More after the jump.

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Tactics, Talent, and Success: Diversity in Scoring and Chance Creation by Benjamin Bellman

I’ve been wondering for some time about soccer teams’ reliance on star power and top statistical producers. Is it really a good strategy? Are teams with one main goal scorer or playmaker easier to “figure out”? When the game is on the line, is a singular threat easier to neutralize than a team with a plethora of attacking options? And would this kind of reliance actually hamper a team’s success across a season?

My skepticism must seem foolish to European executives, given the huge fees Gonzalo Higuain and Paul Pogba went for this summer. But the conventional wisdom is different in the American sports landscape. In our most popular sports, one person simply can’t do it all. Here, Defense Wins Championships. The San Antonio Spurs, the best NBA team of the past two decades, emphasize team play over everything. Peyton Manning was completely underwhelming in both of his Super Bowl wins, needing his incredible teams to carry him to glory. One star pitcher or one star hitter is simply not capable of winning a World Series on their own. The anecdotal evidence even appears in MLS. Chris Wondolowski’s 27 goals in 2012 didn’t get the Earthquakes past the first round of MLS playoffs; neutralize MVP Sebastian Giovinco, and 2015’s Toronto FC didn’t have much else to offer.

More after the jump.

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Giovinco Shoots Too Much (No, Seriously, He Does) by Alex Brodsky

After winning MVP on the back of arguably the greatest offensive season in league history, Sebastian Giovinco is certainly in the running to defend his crown. His 0.96 non-penalty goals and assists per 96 minutes ranks 6th in the league among players with at least 600 minutes. The Atomic Ant has constituted nearly all of Toronto FC’s attack this season, scoring or assisting on all but one of his club’s 14 goals. There is one aspect of his game, however, that is holding his team back: the man loves to shoot from just about anywhere on the field. TFC have seen few returns from Giovinco’s predilection for long shots - he’s only scored once in 50 attempts from outside the box.

Despite Giovinco’s best efforts, TFC’s overall attack has underwhelmed. They currently rank 11th in MLS with 1.36 xG per game. This mark, combined with their vastly improved defense, will surely get them into the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference but won’t help them meet their loftier ambitions. If they truly want to become MLS Cup or Supporters Shield contenders (which many pundits tipped them for during preseason) they’ll need to drastically improve their offensive output after the Copa America break. That improvement starts with Giovinco’s shot quality.

More after the jump.

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2016 ASA PREVIEW: TORONTO FC by Jason Poon

Toronto FC had one goal in 2015, and that was just make the playoffs. Until that point, in their entire eight year existence TFC had never made it to the playoffs. And after an off season that included bringing in Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore to the club, making the playoffs was a must. Thankfully, the entry into the post season was expanded from five to six teams in 2015, and TFC managed to squeak themselves in and remove that wretched blemish of having never seen the playoffs from their club record.

In 2014 and 2015, TFC loaded up heavily on offense, bringing in the likes of Altidore, Michael Bradley and Jermaine Defoe to the club. But those transactions cost the Reds some vital balance to the squad and left their defense woefully exposed. All that has changed heading into 2016 as Toronto reloaded their defense this off-season, picking up former Colorado Rapids captain Drew Moor and Steven Beitashour from Vancouver to shore up the backline, added solid MLS veteran Clint Irwin to man the pipes, and picked up former Portland captain Will Johnson to dictate the midfield with Bradley.

The lack of balance from the 2015 Toronto side on defense kept them from making waves in the playoffs or securing a better playoff position. But now with a more balanced roster and excellent leadership to solidify the backline, Toronto's prospects heading into 2016 look incredibly bright. 

A look at the defense after the jump.

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The Weekend Kick-off Round 33: Red Bulls, FC Dallas and the Supporters' Shield by Harrison Crow

Leaving BMO Field on Wednesday there were plenty of reasons to be surprised with the score line, as the Red Bulls lost to Toronto FC helping them clinch a playoff spot for the first time in their nine year history. The Red Bulls have simply just been the best team in MLS. It's not just their exciting up-tempo tactics and high press. They are one of three clubs with a goal differential above 10 and have more than double the expected goal differential than the club in second place.

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Weekend Kick-off Round 31: The ASA awards by Harrison Crow

The theme or narrative I've pushed, and really most of us over the last few week, has surrounded the end of the season. We've talked about the playoffs probabilities, Supporter Shield finalists, MLS Cup winners and in the end, possible CCL bids. But as we talk about the end of the season we've neglected to mention much concerning the individual accomplishments or hardware that might be awarded after the season. I'm not talking about the 'Landon Donovan MVP trophy or whomever the new comber of the year award is given. Those are all stupid.

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