Featured / MLS

Le Toux: Is he back?

Photo: Paul Rudderow

Is Sebastien Le Toux back?

Two goals from the run of play in two games, both spectacular in nature.

Is the cold streak over for good? Has the Le Toux we knew and loved returned to greatness?

With strikers, goals can come in bunches and disappear in vacuums. Confidence can be a trait as important as touch. When lost, all else can fall apart. When regained, brilliance can happen.

Le Toux has scored brilliant goals in the last two games: first his one-time volley off Justin Mapp’s cross against Real Salt Lake, and then his 92nd minute, game-tying blast against New England. Two months ago, it’s likely that neither of those shots hits the net, cursed as he was by poor finishing and poorer luck.

For Le Toux, the simple acts of netting those key goals could change the course of his season at exactly the right time for the Union. (If it doesn’t, this team isn’t making the playoffs, nor does it deserve to.) Much of his game has been there all season. Yes, there have been bouts of poor touch and, of course, the impossibly poor finishing that was so hard to believe after last year’s ascendancy to stardom.

We all know the story. After that terrific 2010 season at forward (14 goals, 11 assists), Union manager Peter Nowak tried to fix something that wasn’t broken — or rather, fixed the wrong thing by bringing in a striker rather than a central attacking midfielder. The Union ceased being Sebastien Le Toux’s team and became Carlos Ruiz’s team. Le Toux went back to midfield, where he had played without scoring regularly for Seattle and Lorient in France’s Ligue 2, and the results in hindsight look predictable. He stopped scoring. There were fewer chances, so he pressed for more, forced shots that weren’t there, and rushed shots that were. When he got good chances, he blew them. His touch occasionally failed him. His confidence was shot.

To his credit, Nowak stuck with Le Toux, either having faith that Le Toux’s finishing would return or too stubborn to admit that Le Toux’s move to midfield was a bad managerial decision. (You decide which.) Naturally, Le Toux continued playing midfield, save for occasional appearances up top.

To Le Toux’s credit, he kept hustling. When the goals wouldn’t come, he found ways to create for his teammates, and his 8 assists are tied for fourth most in the league. Some of us held faith in him, seeing the mental adjustment, knowing his time would come again.

At times, he still pushed too hard. Critics took shots at him, sometimes rightly so, sometimes far too much. All strikers go through dead stretches, though not often as long as this one.

Sometimes all it takes is one goal to end it.

Le Toux has two. And they were things of beauty.

The Union hit their 2011 low point at halftime of the New England game. Now the question is whether they can take a second half turnaround and turn it into a season-ending hot streak. The schedule doesn’t get much friendlier, and there are now problems with the back five.

But if Le Toux continues scoring, the answer is yes. As Le Toux goes, so too will go the Union.

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