Montreal Impact hope to neutralize Toronto FC star Giovinco in MLS playoff encounter

Montreal Impact hope to neutralize Toronto FC star Giovinco in MLS playoff encounter

Main pic: Toronto FC’s Sebastian Giovinco celebrates a goal against Philadelphia Union’s during first half MLS soccer action in Toronto on October 3, 2015. The Montreal Impact and Toronto FC have much to be proud of this season, but now they are set to face one another in a winner-take-all playoff. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jon Blacker.

MONTREAL — Stopping Toronto FC scoring machine Sebastian Giovinco will be a top priority for the Montreal Impact when the teams meet Thursday night in the MLS playoffs.

The speedy five-foot-four forward won the league’s golden boot award with 22 goals and 16 assists this season and figures to be front and centre in the single-game knockout match at Saputo Stadium.

Impact captain Patrice Bernier said the key is to keep Giovinco in sight and prevent his teammates from feeding him passes.

“It’s not stopping him, it’s neutralizing him,” said Bernier. “Try to avoid him being around the final third to shoot.

“He’s difficult. He’s got a low centre of gravity.”

Giovinco made a play from the left side to feed Jozy Altidore for Toronto’s goal in a 2-1 Montreal victory in the regular season finale on Sunday night. The Italian international was a constant threat through the first 45 minutes, but the Impact defence recovered in the second half.

“At certain times of the game we did well,” said Bernier. “We had two or three guys around him, the first one to force him to dribble and the next guy to collect.

“But he does it nine or 10 times and he goes through half the time so, you have to be really aware of him and neutralize him. And know he can shoot with both feet.”

While Toronto has Giovinco, Montreal counters with imposing striker Didier Drogba. The Ivorian has 11 goals in as many games since joining the Impact in-season.

“I know Giovinco from the time he was playing for Juventus and I was with Chelsea,” said Drogba. “We met a few times outside football.

“He’s a good guy. You saw again he was one of the most dangerous players for Toronto. He’s a player we need to keep an eye on.”

Goalkeeper Evan Bush said that while Giovinco is a constant threat, he is not the only weapon in the TFC arsenal. Altidore, Michael Bradley and Robbie Findley can be just as dangerous.

“Giovinco is different because he just kind of roams and does his own thing and creates things for a lot of guys,” said Bush. “As a group it’s important to know what’s going on.

“The goal we gave up was a good example. Giovinco was marked by three guys but we got caught ball-watching a bit too much. He played a good ball in and Altidore was there to put away an easy header. We need to be concerned about him but you also have to be concerned about the guys playing off him.”

Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press

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