Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Giovinco Works His Free Kick Magic Again as Toronto FC Downs the Red Bulls

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Giovinco Works His Free Kick Magic Again as Toronto FC Downs the Red Bulls

Article excerpt

Giovinco works his free kick magic again

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HARRISON, N.J. - The brotherhood of goalkeepers was on display Monday night as Alex Bono went over to commiserate with Luis Robles, his New York Red Bulls counterpart, after Toronto FC's 2-1 playoff win.

Robles had become the latest victim of a Sebastian Giovinco free kick.

"I said 'Listen, I've been there after training when he's set up a wall of mannequins and he's done that to me. I know exactly how you feel,'" said Bono.

Asked if he ever stopped a Giovinco special, Bono smiled and said: "Once in a while."

Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinal turned in the 72nd minute when, with the score tied 1-1, Brazilian midfielder Felipe took Giovinco down outside the box. The Italian promptly made the Red Bulls pay, curling the ball over the wall and out of the reach of Robles.

Robles marvelled at Giovinco's skill in skimming the ball over the wall.

"It doesn't go up too high and doesn't clear the wall by much," he said. "It's ridiculous."

Toronto had been on its heels in the second half until Giovinco, against the run of play, restored its lead.

"We were definitely up against it," Bono said.

It was Giovinco's seventh goal from a direct free kick this season. His six during the regular-season are a league record as are his 13 over his three MLS seasons (the most of any player in the league's history since 2003 when the stat was first kept).

"He's amazing," said Toronto coach Greg Vanney. "We talk about it all the time but the knack to step up in the moment and make a play is what star players do."

League-leading Toronto defended well and asked questions on the counter-attack in a first half that finished 1-1. But it needed its Italian ace to steady the ship midway through a rocky second half as sixth-seeded New York came out with far more purpose.

Toronto, surviving a close call from Bradley Wright-Phillips in the 62nd minute and a Gonzalo Veron blast minutes later, weathered the storm. And then Giovinco worked his magic.

Victor Vazquez scored in the eighth minute for Toronto, piling the pressure on the home team.

Daniel Royer scored from the penalty spot for the Red Bulls in first-half stoppage time.

"Not a good performance from us, and disappointing in such a big match, but that being said, it's halftime," said New York coach Jesse Marsch. "There's still some left to this game, as crappy as it feels right now. We still have a lot to play for."

The two teams meet again Sunday in the return leg at BMO Field, where Toronto led the league with a .853 home winning percentage (13-1-3) this season. The Red Bulls tied for sixth in road success (.353, 5-10-2).

It could be a chippy affair given the bad blood that was bubbling Monday night. It should also be entertaining with the Red Bulls needing to answer Toronto's two away goals. …

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