Toronto FC walloped New York City FC 5-0 last night in the second leg of their MLS Eastern Conference Semifinal clash. The win gave Toronto a 7-0 aggregate win and a place in the Conference Final against the Montreal Impact.
The incredible win last night was due in no small part to a stellar performance from Italian forward Sebastian Giovinco, who tallied a hat trick as part of a comprehensive dismantling. It came at the near-end of a season where Giovinco made himself indispensable as Toronto qualified for the playoffs for the first time. You’d think that, at the very least, it would earn him a spot on the Italy roster for the international break.
You’d be wrong, apparently.
Italy manager Giampiero Ventura spoke to reporters earlier today on several conspicuous omissions from the squad that will face Liechtenstein in World Cup qualifying and Germany in a friendly, including Giovinco. Ventura said he left the 29-year-old off his call sheet because he “plays in a league that doesn’t count for much.”
There’s always speculation when a player moves from Europe to MLS that his international career may be put on pause, if not brought to an unceremonious end. Surely when England internationals head to the US for regular playing time and a steady paycheck it’s usually done after they’ve already retired from England duty or else the move comes with an implicit understanding that they wouldn’t be receiving calls from St. George’s anymore. The merits of such an unspoken rule have been debated endlessly, and no doubt some keyboard warriors are warming up their typing fingers and getting ready to dive into the comment section here.
But there’s a few complications here. First, there’s Giovinco’s blistering form. Say what you will about MLS, but it’s not like Gio is playing on God Mode here. He knows how to find the back of the net, and if he can score against NYCFC there’s a pretty good chance he could make himself useful against Lichtenstein. Second, Giovinco is still pretty young, and not using him at close to his prime just seems to be a damn shame. And third, there’s Ventura taking what’s typically subtext in the politics of international call-ups and making it text. You may believe that playing in MLS is an automatic disqualifier for the national team, but most managers have the good sense not to say this sort of thing out loud.
Giovinco wasn’t the only victim of Ventura’s stand-up routine. The manager said that Mario Balotelli’s recent dominant form for Nice counts for little because of “a thousand other factors.” Ventura also noted that Graziano Pelle was left out of the squad because he refused to shake his hand after being substituted out of a match last month, saying that “I thought it would be useful for him to have a pause to reflect.” (Curiously, Pelle playing in the Chinese Super League was not an automatic disqualifier, unlike Giovinco playing in MLS.)
So who is Ventura counting on for the last international break in 2016? Torino’s Andrea Belotti and Lazio’s Ciro Immobile— both of whom Ventura coached when he was in charge at Torino. “They’re two players I don’t need to get to know. I know them perfectly well since I coached them. They have a chance to take over the national team.”
It’s fair to say that Ventura will be under the microscope for the matches against Liechtenstein and Germany.