Featured / Union

Nothing more than feelings: Seba & Peter give their reasons

Photo: Earl Gardner

There are a lot of quotes from Sebastien Le Toux in this article. Many of them come from Chris Vito’s (of the Delco Daily Times and The Times Herald) fantastic interview with Seba. Check it out. Many quotes from Peter Nowak are from his January 31 press conference. I cross-checked my transcription with The Goalkeeper’s, which you can find here. 

Sometimes you don’t want to know the truth.

You hear the reasons; they ring hollow. But you want to believe the simple answers.

The money

Peter Nowak was asked if it was about the money: “Not really. It’s all about, as we always said, that we all believe and we make known to the public as well that we would like to build a club that is all about the future. It’s not about one player, it’s about the future.”

Well, that makes sense, right? A team is never about one player, it has to be bigger than that. But then again, a player can embody a franchise without taking it over. A single player can represent the values of a club without overshadowing his team. Remember Mike Servedio’s 2010 season review: “After all, I think we all know what to expect from Le Toux in every game: A guy that will go 100% for 90 minutes for as many games as there are in the season.”

Sure, the Philadelphia Union have to build for the future. But with every other striker on the roster eligible for U-23 play, isn’t the future in place? Shouldn’t one guy – a guy who plays multiple positions and who embodies the best in off-the-field conduct – be a “now”?

Chris Vito asked Sebastien Le Toux if it was about the money: “The only thing they wanted is the money,” Le Toux said. “Being with this team and being a guy, not to build around, but to help this team, was what I wanted. … They must have wanted to sell me for money because they needed money.”

The future

Peter Nowak was asked when it became clear that Sebastien Le Toux was not a necessary part of the Philadelphia Union’s future: “You don’t justify it with words like that. I think this is the wrong approach. We have to look at what kinds of commitments we have with other players. We’ll continue to build our franchise, and as I said, it’s not about one player.”

And asked whether the arrival of new players made it easier to sell Le Toux, Nowak continued: “It is not easy for any of us but, as I said, we want to reinvest the resources we have in the players that we believe are going to be with the team for the future. We have a couple of guys on the roster for whom we want to improve their contracts because they still have contracts from past years and they are not financially strong, but they contribute to the team. You can name them. One is Sheanon Williams.”

Ok, right. It’s about the business side of things. In order to pay your up-and-comers what they deserve, you have to jettison the old guard. That philosophy was probably part of the reason the team was able to let Faryd Mondragon go even as the preseason began. But the team kept a player with a $100,000 salary in reserves throughout 2011. They paid mightily to have 70 percent of Freddy Adu for the back half of the sophomore campaign and they signed oodles of foreign talent in the offseason. Isn’t it a bit odd to announce that money can’t be spared for the best player in the history of the franchise – and a player still in the prime of his career – when there was enough loose change lying around to capture prized roster additions?

Sebastien Le Toux said (again to Chris Vito): “‘It had gotten to the point where I said to them, to Nick [Sakiewicz], to Peter [Nowak], to everyone [not me, I would have done it], ‘Just give me a contract and I will sign it,’” said Le Toux, who spoke exclusively with the Daily Times. “I wanted to stay in Philly. I didn’t care about the money.'”

Vito writes, “Le Toux, who does not have agent representation, said he asked Sakiewicz for a pay increase up to the neighborhood of $400,000, putting him just below the league’s designated player status. In the weeks that followed, Le Toux never got an offer from the Union.”

The flipside

Peter Nowak was asked about a connection between Le Toux’s transfer and the signing of Roger Torres: “Of course. That’s why I gave my answer to the first question. We want to invest in the future. We have a very good foundation with our youth pieces, and we believe and have faith in them that they will develop in the right way. Every year, all of these youngsters were very good. They got more time on the field, they understand each other more, and we want to keep the group intact and make them develop even stronger as a team, as a group. That’s true with Roger Torres as well. We want to make sure that whatever resources we have, we reinvest them in youth.”

There we go. Perfect example. Sell the old guy so you can keep the young ones. Roger Torres is a guy who can contribute now and in the future. He showed flashes of brilliance during a 5-game stretch when he started every night and picked up a goal and two assists. But wait, then he didn’t play more than a half in the final four games and recorded a grand total of three shots on goal. I guess 45 minutes over the course of two playoff legs isn’t so bad… hold on, yes it is!

The implication is that the real return for Sebastien Le Toux was Roger Torres. But in that case, why not take the $400+ marked “Adu” and drop it on the doorstep of a proven MLS performer? How many diminutive playmakers do you need when you’re rockin’ Farfan wings and a ’91 Okugo engine?

“I told [the Union] I would consider (Bolton), but I knew it wasn’t good for me,” Le Toux said. “I was out of shape. I hadn’t kicked a ball in five weeks. I didn’t want to go over there and injure myself in cold weather. What good is that for me or (the Union)?”

The respect

Asked about Sebastien Le Toux’s impact on the team, Peter Nowak said: “Of course. It’s something that made a change from the field. From the beginning, when he scored three goals, he was associated with our franchise. That was no secret to anybody. The rest, scoring so many goals in the first season, you are always going to be visible. He played in the All-Star Game, so he represented our club in a very good way. That’s not a question at all. For us he was a piece that was always a player who put everything in, especially in the first year. I think he’s a good role model for other players as well.”

True, true and true. Everything Sebastien Le Toux did in Philadelphia oozed class. He took his one shot up top and turned it into an MVP-worthy run. He was a saint in the community, taking his status as a leader to mean he represented the team in everything he did. Le Toux was… wait, does that say “especially in the first year”? Did Le Toux put less into the 2011 campaign? Did he slack? Is he being implicitly blamed for being less productive as a midfielder than he was as a striker? Was there a different dancing Frenchman who put the team on his back and carried it the final leg of the 2011 season?

After finding out he had been sold: “I asked Peter (Monday at YSC) what was going on and he didn’t let me talk,” Le Toux said. “He started to get mad at me, telling me that I was very not respectful to leave Bolton early. I told him, ‘First, I respect myself.’ But I always did everything they asked me to do. I came from vacation in the Dominican Republic for the Bimbo (sponsorship) announcement. I always was respectful. … It was like he was saying, ‘I don’t know if I can trust you on this team.’

The feelings

Peter Nowak said: “Feelings are not really included in my job description. I have to make sure that the team is good; that the team understands the goals we are going to set up; and that the team is going is going to have a future from today until whenever. Whether it’s past me, whatever the future is going to be for this franchise.”

The fans can handle the feelings side of it:

  • How about Dan Walsh’s favorite soccer moment of 2010? When he took his daughter to the Toronto FC match: “The game was back-and-forth the rest of the way, with fans (including us) chanting and yelling throughout, till Sebastien Le Toux scored a last minute PK for the win and everyone went nuts. She loved it, and I loved watching her love it.”
  • Or the way PSP introduced Le Toux to the Union faithful when he was drafted, when he hat-tricked all over DC United, and when he earned the first ever perfect 10 in our player ratings.
  • What about Daniel Gajdamowicz’s shots of Le Toux scoring the first Union goal at PPL Park.
  • Or when he became the team’s first ever All-Star. Then PSP named him Men’s Player of the Year, 2010. MLS was so impressed they gave Le Toux the Fair Play award and the Assist of the Year award.
  • And how sweet was it when Seba broke his 2011 duck? After Le Toux sealed the 4-4 comeback tie against New England Dan Walsh accurately wrote, “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.” With Ruiz gone, we all looked to Le Toux again. And he delivered.
  • As the Union’s late 2011 resurgence stretched to a 7-game unbeaten streak, Ed Farnsworth wrote that during the streak, “Sebastien Le Toux scored six of the 12 goals and Freddy Adu scored two. Roger Torres, Michael Farfan, Justin Mapp and Brian Carroll each scored one.” Six is half of twelve, by the way. A pretty significant contribution.
  • When the Union’s second season was over, Soccer By Ives had Sebastien Le Toux in its MLS Best IX Second Team. No other Union player made it above the third team. The Union used Le Toux as the face of the club’s New Kit Design Contest.
The end

Many talented players will come to Philadelphia, steal our hearts, and leave. But it’s true that your first time only happens once. Sebastien Le Toux will always be our first for a lot of things. First Union goal, first Union hat trick, first Union goal at PPL Park, first All-Star. These accomplishments are reason enough to place someone on a pedestal, but Le Toux runs deeper.  He was both an object of fan affection and an admirer of their enthusiasm.

So it is OK to be upset that Sebastien Le Toux is gone. There was something special about him that we may never see again.

And to those who say it was not time to move him on: No. Not if the on-field product is first and foremost to a club.

That’s why it sounds so disingenuous when Peter Nowak says this wasn’t about money. That’s why the “more-time-for-the-young-guys” and “we-can’t-let-him-go-for-nothing” arguments ring so hollow. For the entire 2010 season and the latter third of the 2011 season, Sebastien Le Toux was the Philadelphia Union offense.

And now he’s gone for good. If there was any question about that, cruise over to Chris Vito’s interview with newest member of the Vancouver Whitecaps:

“I’m sad because of the way I was treated by the staff. I’m disgusted,” Le Toux said. “I’m sorry for the guy who already bought my jersey. Maybe he can get the refund.”

“I would be happy to just retire than play for Peter again.”

42 Comments

  1. Nowak is full of crap. If it’s “all about the future” then why did he hold onto Gonzales and his $192,000 salary for the entire year while not playing him once? Surely he could have freed up that 192k and given a raise to Sheanon and started working on Roger’s deal sooner. Same with Levi for that matter; why did we keep him for the entire season? Nowak acts as if 28 is so over-the-hill that the guy can’t perform anymore. The bottom line is that Nowak is an arrogant jerkoff who still thinks that Americans are too dumb to understand soccer. What he has absolutely no clue about is that Philly fans don’t like to be talked down to, and they absolutely don’t like the the face of their franchise player – the hardest working guy in MLS – being treated like a piece of garbage. Le Toux represented us, we adopted him as one of our own. Nowak treating him the way he did feels just like – by extension – Nowak treated US that way. Nowak is a scumbag and I can’t wait to boo him all season long.

    • I’ve said it elsewhere, and I’ll be happy to bring it here. You can’t use JDG as an example because we don’t know the terms of his contract. He was signed mid-season in 2010 and probably didn’t perform as anticipated. Unfortunately, it seems the team was stuck with this $192k albatross for the entire 2011 season. Cutting him wouldn’t have meant the team could necessarily take his salary off the books because, again, we don’t – know – the – terms – of – his – contract.

    • I just want to know when this change in philosophy happened. This is the same Peter Nowak who put in Stephani Miglioranzi in a playoff game rather than trust his kids.

    • Yea the whole JDG point is rediculous. 1) Surely nobody needed him with his salary. 2) It costs tons of money to release a player from their contract without it being mutual. Same with Levi. Contracts are Contract, you can’t just go “Oh hey you’re not doing anything, BYE”.
      And if any “fans” sit there and boo Nowak in the stadium, not only are you a bigger jerkoff than he is, you’re just showing you don’t support this club 120%. We don’t need people like that. When we do just as good, if not better next season, I’m gonna laugh at every single person who is talking this and that about Nowak. He’s a brilliant soccer mind, and it’s been shown.

      • I want some of your KoolAid.

        And don’t pull that, you cheer for your team 100% or your not a true fan garbage.

        Fans have every right to be upset, regardless of your hyperbolic opinion.

      • I think you’re confused as to what it means to “support the team.” It does NOT mean being part of a chorus of yes men who slavishly approve of every decision the club makes and accept the limp, post hoc rationalizations of an arrogant, self-important has-been at face value. It does not mean being a “useful idiot” and buying and spreading the spin.

        There is nothing wrong with showing some disapproval of Nowak’s move. And he’s hardly the only option for this team. There are plenty of “brilliant soccer mind[s]” that could do the job. But you’re right, they’re probably not brilliant enough to play Migz in a back five and bench young players for journeymen, only to turn around and justify selling the one consistent producer on the team as a move to give young players a chance to solidify their positions on the team.

  2. It comes down to money and owners taking a pay check This just off the top my head Le Toux made 180,000, Mapp made 180,000, Mondragon made 400,000,Pavnovic made 90,000 plus any other players you can think of that I missed.I think that would be a savings of one million + the million from the Whitecaps.I think they may have just cut their payroll in half not sure.If they do not replace with soild proven players the wheels may fall off the wagon that the Coach is driving!!

    • Ed Farnsworth says:

      Salary savings since Nov. 23, 2011 (Salaries are most recent known 2011 figures as per MLS Players Union)

      Gonzalez – $193.462.50
      Holder – $42,000.00
      Houpeau – $32.604.00
      Le Toux – $179,000.00
      Mapp – $183,333.33
      Mondragon – $396,666.67
      Naka – $44,000.00
      Migs – $153,125.00
      Pauno – $90,000.00
      Richter – $32,604.00
      Tait – $42,000.00
      ________________________
      Total – $1,388,795.50

  3. MikeRSoccer says:

    I think my favorite Nowak quote was “Whether it’s past me”. When is that going to happen? Soon, please? I’ve spoken with many of my friends that go to Union games or are season ticket holders. We all unanimously agreed on one thing. On Sunday March 18th we will be booing Nowak and turning our backs like we do for the apposing team. On March 31st we will be booing Nowak and cheering when Sebastien Le Toux scores. I want the Union to lose on March 31st. Why? Because this organization needs to understand that in this city winning is not why we come out to games. If that was the reason we go to games this city would have no sports franchises given our less then glorious history of winning. Is worrying about the future important? Absolutely. Is worrying about the future at the expense of your reputation for being honest, hard working and respectful worth it? No.

    • Those are my thoughts exactly. I told my boyfriend that I also want the union to lose to the whitecaps on the 31 st of march, but only if it is off the back of Le Toux scoring a ton of goals. I will be cheering for Le Toux and I will be booing nowak right along side of you.

    • On March 31st I will be booing people like you. The organization made/makes questionable decisions, and I understand why people are angry, but to wish a poor result for the 18 players dressed in blue and gold on March 31st, or ANY day for that matter, is asinine. Le Toux was my favorite player, and I am very sad to see him go. I have the utmost respect for him, and wish him the best in Vancouver or wherever his path takes him, but all this negativity towards the team is misplaced. Be mad at the FO – that’s fine – write an angry email or tweet, call them to show your disapproval, but don’t take it out on the guys playing their hearts out for you.

    • Nowak is the Netflix of soccer for PR Blunders!!

      I am committed to the Union – but March 31st will be difficult.

      I am Union strong – but I am sad, hurt, confused with the crazy decisions being made.

      I agree with another comment – that Nowak is treating us like idiots. We are not amused.

    • What he said

    • Josh T. of Kensington says:

      Well said. We want character first.

  4. I will say one thing in defense of Nowak, for as questionable as his coaching was and now his person skills are, it’s hard to knock his GM skills. In two years the only bad personnel move was Ruiz (we can’t judge these recent moves at all … no matter how much we love Le Toux, we need to see the results first).
    He has turned a two year old franchise into a team filled with talent and promise. He has done it several ways – he has hit with high draft picks. He has found diamonds in the second round. He has brought in wonderful international players. He has called up players who look great.
    I am not sure I want him as my coach anymore, but I really want him as my GM.

    • R u kidding?! How about Gonzales and Adu. I still have some hope for Adu but have grave doubts

      • Forgot about Gonzalez, but he did play late in 2010 and did not seem too be THAT bad. Obviously keeping him all year and not playing him isn’t the best but it didn’t really hurt the team either.
        And Adu? Trust me I think Torres totally outplayed him last year and I want Torres to start but Adu is still a legit NT bubble player and has as much skill as anyone else on the team. I’ll wait longer than 2 injury filled months before passing judgement on him.

      • How about:
        (1) Protecting Seitz over Salinas and then dumping Seitz shortly afterwards?
        (2) Trading Jacobson (who then went on to start for Dallas) for a bag of chips?
        (3) The whole Orozco-Fiscal fiasco?

  5. Nice piece Adam but too civil for me to really enjoy right now. I’m furious. Seeing red.

    Eli, please tell me you’ve got a rant coming soon. I need the cathartic venting of rage.

  6. From Nowak:

    @Peter_Nowak Peter Nowak
    I understand why everyone is upset , but please have faith we’re doing what’s best for the club. Sometimes tough decisions need to be made

    @Peter_Nowak Peter Nowak
    I do ask that you please stop sending curses to my Twitter account . My daughters and family read them and it is crossing a line. Thank you

  7. When are they gonna announce the signing of 30 year old (youth movement) forward (another one) Lionard Pajoy (already on his wiki page)? Also PSP staff…anyway you could hunt down the Espn en espanol interview the Dragon did yesterday or day before? I couldnt find a link.

  8. Josh T. of Kensington says:

    I think that, regardless of whether or not this was a bad or good personnel move there is a deeper issue. When a player plays well, and hard, is it okay to trade that player, just to make the team better next year? It’s just soccer, and we want the Union to win- to but Le Toux deserved, Philly deserved, to see this through. This kind of attitude, that all players are expendable for success- is going to mess up my enjoyment of the team. And I want Union wins, but if we come out next year with a 50% diff. line up- it’s going to be hard to find the continuity.

    It’s like an employee- bosses are in charge, and sometimes they need to fire people and move people- but the employee should have a say- especially when that employee works his heart out.

  9. If were are always building for the “future” when will arrive at the “now.” Will we know when we are there? Is the front office basically telling us that we shouldnt expect any silverware next year? Is 2012 a building year?

  10. It’s not a question of money (why not use use Adu’s money instead of Le Toux’s), it’s a question of playing time. With Sebe gone, there are now 90 minutes a game for other players, such as Torres, to be on the field.

    • I guess the Pats should dump Tom Brady to give Ryan Mallet more playing time too then, right?

      • Not a fair analogy, Brady and Le Toux aren’t comparable in terms of talent. Like I’ve been saying, Le Toux’s skill set starts and ends at “runs hard.”
        I love that there are now 90 minutes to be had for younger players with skill and potential. There may be a drop off at first, but by the end of the year I’d bet one of our 3 young strikers would have established themselves as a talented striker for the future. Whereas Le Toux will still be “running hard” and may or may not have been invisible more often than not.

      • The 90 minutes that were there when he was playing Paunovic and Ruiz, you mean?

        Bird in hand, man. Of course the young/new players look good before they actually step on the field. They’re big blobs of potential. You’re complaining about Le Toux being invisible while celebrating more minutes for Mwanga and McInerney? Talk about “invisible”. . . .

      • Going forward I like what this does for our offense. Can Le Toux honestly play in anything other than a Stoke style, Bradley Ball knock off? Because that’s what his skill set is best for, and that’s why when it didn’t work (which was often) our offense looked so miserable at points last year.
        We wonder who will replace his stats, but in honest I’d take the hit and start to move our offense towards something more attractive and effective with forwards who can play in that kind of system.

      • You are certaintly entitled to your own opinion of Le Toux’s talent level, though I put more stock in stats and actual results than your subjective view of his talent level. Fortunately, we’ll get to see who is right this coming year. Is the team better without the guy that single-handedly accounted for close to 60% of our offense? I think not…but truth be told I don’t think I really care anymore…

    • kinda flimsy when you consider that with the olympices and a few stretches of 3 games in 7 days the kids would have their chance to get on the feild.

    • There was nothing stopping Nowak from playing those guys ahead of Le Toux last year if the team would have been better off.

      • Yeah, I don’t believe that at all. Nowak is the same guy who put Migs in a 5 man back line in our first ever playoff game. He’s the coach who was starting Adu even though a blind man coulda seen Torres was playing better by miles. I wouldn’t put any stock into what Nowak decides in terms of the best lineup possible.

      • What don’t you believe? I’m not saying that his playing Le Toux is evidence that the team is *actually* worse off now. We have to see it play out. I’m saying it suggests that the notion that giving playing time to young players was a factor motivating the decision is dubious. I agree with your criticisms of his coaching. He has a tinkering problem — can’t leave well enough alone. (Doesn’t bode well for letting the kids develop, either.)

        If you want to see how a player like Le Toux can exist beyond the “Bradley Ball” approach, look at the system they have in Dortmund. There’s plenty of space for a high work rate forward in a finesse style that emphasizes ball movement. Le Toux was not a clattering Cattermole. Get a couple of good distributors in the middle of the pitch and his speed and work rate create opportunities for them to get him the ball.

  11. Actually this offseason reminds me of the Flyers offseason, come to think of it.

  12. We will miss his work rate, but not his first touch. It stings to lose the face of a franchise, but you can’t deny the eye for talent that this franchise (in particular Diego Gutierrez) has in putting together a quality and deep roster in a span of two years. Seba will not be missed when the new corps of offense gets a few games together. He is replaceable just like 99 percent of mls players. You have to consider professionals in other soccer cultures get their started at 16. 28 is past your best years as a player. If there was value in this deal, I support the franchise for doing so.

  13. The main problem is that they have no one to replace him.

  14. Josh your comments are spot on. But I”‘ll go you one better, I”ll just stay away. But I will keep my Le Toux jersey. “F” Peter and the whole Union front office.

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