TORONTO â€” Star striker Sebastian Giovinco received treatment for a painful charley horse Tuesday as his Toronto FC teammates trained in advance of this week’s trip to Vancouver.
With a long plane ride leading to an artificial field at B.C. Place Stadium and the knowledge that next week is a bye, keeping the Atomic Ant as snug as a bug back home may be an option. After Saturday’s game with the Whitecaps (0-1-1), Toronto (0-0-2) doesn’t play again until the March 31 home opener against Sporting Kansas City.
Toronto coach Greg Vanney said Giovinco was questionable for Vancouver.
The five-foot-four, 130-pound Italian had to helped off late in the first half of Saturday’s 2-2 tie in Philadelphia when six-foot-four 210 pound defender Oguchi Onyewu caught him with a knee to the right thigh in a challenge.
“At this early point of the season, we’re not going to put (Giovinco) in a situation where he is less than full strength,” said Vanney. “And especially going into a difficult place, field, to play. So we’ll keep an eye on it.”
Attacking midfielder Victor Vazquez also missed practice after having an injection to his knee as part of his maintenance routine. He is due to be back training Wednesday.
Fullback Steven Beitashour, who sat out the Philadelphia game after taking a ball to the head late in the season-opening 0-0 tie in Salt Lake City, is still in the concussion protocol.
Vanney hopes if all goes well, Beitashour will be fit to face his former team in Vancouver.
Tsubasa Endoh, a winger-forward who has little experience at wingback, had a difficult day trying to fill Beitashour’s shoes. He was beaten on the header that set up the first goal and often found himself detached in attack when Toronto lost possession and Philadelphia counter-attacked.
“I thought he did OK,” said Vanney, adding he thought Endoh could have been better served by his teammates on the day.
The Toronto coach believes his team has been rushing on offence, rather than building attacks that allow players like Giovinco to push and pull the defence out of position. That has led to losing the ball and having to defend more.
Playing on a bumpy pitch in Utah and in high winds in Philadelphia have not helped. The controlled conditions under the dome in Vancouver will be welcome, even if the artificial surface will not.
Toronto leaves Thursday for the West Coast.
Vanney is of two minds after the first two games of the season.
“I would say we didn’t play our best soccer. We had an opportunity to win both games,” he said. “We still came away from two difficult places on two difficult days with a point. So we’ll take that.
“But I think when we look at the capacity of what we’re capable of doing and our expectations of ourself, which are very high, we’re disappointed we didn’t take more out of one of the games, at least … But when I look at the things that we didn’t do well, our upside is enormous.”
Toronto is still gathering momentum, he suggested.
“You never start the season where you finished the year before,” he said. “And so we have a lot of building blocks to still put into place. But we’re all very excited about getting some of these things cleaned up and putting them together because we know the end result will be, hopefully, some comfortable wins along the way.”
Toronto returned all 11 starters from the MLS Cup final loss to Seattle but Vazquez has already moved into the starting lineup and French-born Congolese defender Chris Mavinga is hovering in the wings. While competition is part of every team, the Toronto pecking order is somewhat in flux.
Vancouver has its own issues this week, with a CONCACAF Champions League in Mexico on Tuesday night complicating matters.
Toronto trained indoors Tuesday, escaping the snow and sub-zero temperatures.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press