This Moment

Nicolas Lodeiro, Sebastian Giovinco both in focus ahead of MLS Cup Final

TUKWILA, Wash. — Over the past two seasons there’s been no better in Major League Soccer than Sebastian Giovinco, the playmaker at the heart of the attack for Toronto FC.

That statement isn’t opinion as much as it’s a simple fact, proven nearly each time the Italian international steps on the field for the Reds. One would be hard-pressed to find anyone around MLS who could dispute against the merits of Giovinco, who was named MLS MVP in 2015 and amassed another sparkling season this year, recording 17 goals and 15 assists in just 28 games.

His quickness is second-to-none and his movement off the ball makes containing him even more difficult. Teams can game plan around him and focus on mitigating his impact, but often times that still isn’t enough. He’s near indefensible and makes preparing to face him a necessary albeit unenviable task.

But for the Seattle Sounders, who will face Giovinco and Toronto FC in the 2016 MLS Cup Final at BMO Field on Saturday, Dec. 10 (5 p.m. PT; FOX, TSN, UniMas, KIRO Radio 97.3 FM, El Rey 1360AM), they have something that none of TFC’s opponents have: Nicolas Lodeiro.

Sounders defenders practice day in and day out against Lodeiro, who, after winning 2016 MLS Newcomer of the Year and helping turn around the Sounders’ season, could very well be in the MVP discussion in 2017. While not exactly the same style of player as Giovinco, Lodeiro is as quick and creative on the ball as they come.

“They’re both really, really good,” said Sounders head coach Brian Schmetzer. “Defenders have to be on their toes. Nico is sharp, quick … Giovinco is the same.

“Giovinco is a scorer. Nico’s scored his fair share of goals, but he can put in those final passes. I think they’re pretty similar.”

Lodeiro, though, doesn’t see the comparison.

“The only thing that we’re alike in is that we’re short,” Lodeiro quipped through a translator. “We are completely different players.”

Lodeiro knew of Giovinco before either player came to MLS, thanks to the Italian’s success with Juventus and Parma in the Serie A because some of Lodeiro’s friends and countrymen played with Giovinco. Lodeiro said he always wants to follow the world’s best players and perhaps learn a little something from them, a trait that has parlayed itself into immediate and abundant success so far in Seattle.

Comparing two of the best players in the league may be an exercise in futility, but the point remains that the Sounders will neither be intimidated nor caught off guard by Giovinco. Seattle has seen Lodeiro slice through opposing defenses enough times to know not to lose track of his TFC counterpart and to expect the unexpected from him.

The Sounders have faced Giovinco just once since his arrival – he was relatively quiet and even surprisingly missed some golden chances in the teams’ 1-1 draw in July after missing the teams’ lone matchup of 2015 – but they’re well aware of what he can do as the catalyst for the TFC attack.

From one offensive expert to another, it’s a matter of respect.

“They were one of the best in the Eastern Conference, and there’s a reason why they’re in the finals,” Lodeiro said. “We have to be prepared, it’s an aggressive team. We have to be prepared for that attacking force.”



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