TORONTO — While Yankee Stadium has proved to be a strangely shaped home to soccer, it seems to fit Sebastian Giovinco.
The Atomic Ant has seven goals and three assists in four trips to the Bronx ahead of Wednesday's visit by Toronto FC. That includes two hat tricks.
And he could have had more at in the tight confines of New York City FC's historic home, missing a penalty in a wild 4-4 tie in June 2015, when he still scored three goals in just nine minutes.
Giovinco has feasted on the NYCFC defence, taking 28 shots (16 on target) in those four games — the last of which was a 5-0 humiliation in the second leg of last season's Eastern Conference semifinal. Toronto won the playoff series 7-0 on aggregate.
"He likes a big stage, for sure," said coach Greg Vanney. "He's a guy who thrives sometimes on tight spaces because his technical quality is so precise that's he's in front of the goal in less amount of time because the field's a little shorter. So I think it plays into his hands in some ways.
"It's not so different for (NYCFC star forward) David Villa. These guys find themselves in front of goal and in goal-scoring positions relatively quickly. And they take advantage of that."
New York's field at Yankee Stadium is the league's smallest at 110 yards by 70. In contrast, BMO Field's playing surface measures 115 yards by 74.3 yards.
Not to mention the NYCFC pitch is shoehorned into a baseball stadium.
"It's always weird for people who come from Europe to play in a baseball stadium," said Toronto's French midfielder Benoit Cheyrou. "I remember the first time we played there, we were looking at the lines and it seemed like the lines weren't square."
The grass also is different because the baseball diamond has to be covered up.
"It seems like there's a step because of this difference in grass,' said Cheyrou. "So it's a very weird experience, but nice."
Defender Jason Hernandez played the last two seasons with NYCFC prior to joining Toronto.
"Personally it was a lot of fun because I grew up in New York, I grew up a Yankee supporter," said Hernandez. "Professionally it provides its own challenges. It's a unique place as far as its dimensions and what it brings.
"But the reality is they always have great support. there's going to be a lot of people. And every team, just like them, we have to deal with the dimensions. We have to deal with the circumstances. TFC has shown it can go there and get a result. And get a good result."
Put two aggressive attacking teams on the Yankee Stadium pitch and offence can come quickly.
"This is a place where anything can happen," said Vanney.
Giovinco offence aside, Toronto has had a hard time beating NYCFC. While holding a 2-0-0 edge in the playoffs, Toronto has never defeated New York FC in regular-season play (0-2-3 including 0-1-2 at Yankee Stadium).
Villa, who is making US$5.61 million, has 12 goals and six assists in 18 games this season. Giovinco, whose salary is $7.12 million, has nine goals and four assists in 14 games.
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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press