MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. â€” Ask Matteo Mancosu who’s the best player in MLS and the Montreal Impact striker doesn’t miss a beat.
“Giovinco,” the Italian said immediately.
Columbus Crew forward Ola Kamara is equally certain. “Giovinco, for sure,” said the Norwegian.
“It’s like playing against Michael Jordan,” Philadelphia defender Richie Marquez said of facing the Toronto FC star. “It doesn’t matter how much film you watch or how many times you play him, he’s still going to dominate.”
Sebastian Giovinco, named MLS MVP in 2015 in his first year in the league was fourth in voting last season for the top player honours won by New York City FC forward David Villa. But on Tuesday, there was plenty of love for the little Italian as two dozen MLS stars attended a pre-season media roundtable.
And while Spain’s Villa got his due, one player after another sang the praises of the Atomic Ant when asked about who shines brightest in the North American league.
“The best player in this league for me, hands down, I’m talking all-round, is Giovinco,” said New York Red Bulls forward Bradley Wright-Phillips, who was runner-up to Villa in MVP voting.
“(Villa) he’s a very clever player too. … But for me (it’s) Giovinco,” the English native added. “Toronto could be playing terrible and he can just do one or two bits or magic that no one else can do in the league.”
Still Wright-Phillips wasn’t surprised that Giovinco was not one of the three MVP finalists (Red Bulls midfielder Sacha Kljestan placed third in the voting) last season.
“No I understood that. I saw a lot of articles or comments saying that he should have been in there but he got injured at a crucial time,” Wright-Phillips said. “I feel like everyone knows he’s the best player but that shouldn’t what MVP is. It’s who’s done the best throughout the season, who stood out. And that’s what it should be. And I think David Villa did that all season and he won the MVP. Obviously Giovinco, if he’s playing to his best every season, he could win it every year.
“That wouldn’t be fun, would it,” he mused.
Giovinco, who finished with 17 goals and 15 assists despite missing six games last season, was not part of Tuesday’s all-day media session. No fan of such gabfests, he had to be persuaded to attend last year when he was MVP. Apparently, as an also-ran, the 29-year-old Italian felt no such compulsion this year.
Villa offered up a list of players, starting with Giovinco, when asked about the league’s cream of the crop.
“it’s amazing what he does on the pitch,” he said of Giovinco. “I love a lot (Montreal midfielder) Ignacio Piatti, he’s a great great player. Sacha (Kljestan), Bradley (Wright-Phillips) had a great season, (Colorado goalkeeper) Tim Howard, (Seattle playmaker Nicolas) Lodeiro coming in the middle of the season.”
Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer cited both Giovinco and Villa.
“It’s difficult. To me right now the best player is Sebastian Giovinco. But like David Villa, who’s to say he’s not the best? Who’s going to tell him that?”
Orlando’s Brazilian star Kaka has the two as No, 1 and 1A.
“I think David, he had a very good season … But If I could share it I would put Giovinco as well. I think Giovinco had a very very good season.”
Not every player chose Giovinco or Villa.
San Jose midfielder Fatai Alashe pointed to Uruguay’s Lodeiro. Vancouver Whitecaps defender Tim Parker opted for Argentina’s Piatti.
Argentine attacking midfielder Mauro Diaz of FC Dallas also got several mentions.
Portland’s Argentine playmaker Diego Valeri also could not choose just one. “I like Villa, I like Giovinco, I like Piatti, Lodeiro.”
Canadian forward Cyle Larin of Orlando started with Giovinco then added Villa, Kaka, and NYCFC’s Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo.
Toronto FC fullback Justin Morrow, true to his teammate, had just one name.
“I’ve played with Seba for 2 years now and he still does things that I don’t expect, I don’t see coming … I mean this league has tons of great players but the things that Sebastian does and the way he lifts our team, all the moments that he’s had, he’s shown that right now he’s the best player in our league.”
Voting for the 2016 Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player was done by MLS players, management and the media. Giovinco got 10.53 per cent of the player vote, compared to 27.63 per cent for Villa, 18.42 per cent for Wright-Phillips and 19.74 per cent for Kljestan.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press