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Could Le Toux return to the Union?

Photo: Paul Rudderow

When Philadelphia Union take the field Saturday at PPL Park for their last game of 2012, they’ll see a familiar face in a Red Bulls uniform. After a tumultuous season, one can only wonder how many Union fans will quietly ask themselves this question:

Could Sebastien Le Toux return to the Union next year?

The answer is yes.

Here’s why and how.

The Union lack a proven second starting striker to pair with Jack McInerney, who needs more support up top regardless of the Union’s formation. Union management has indicated they’re looking for “big time forwards,” and then more recently word dripped out that this could be a stretch-the-field type.

To many, the latter may come as a surprise, because one would think they would want a taller forward to pair with 5-10 Jack McInerney on one of the league’s shortest teams. Le Toux isn’t known for his strength or aerial play.

Still, McInerney is no speedster and has proven surprisingly adept at hold-up play, though few would mistake him for a target forward. So it’s entirely possible (though not necessarily probable) Union manager John Hackworth might want a runner instead of a target forward alongside McInerney.

If so, Le Toux makes sense for a number of reasons.

  1. He is a proven scorer when deployed at forward, and he certainly stretches the field.
  2. His contract is up at season’s end, and he will likely be available in the Re-Entry Draft.
  3. His market value is lower than it was a year ago, probably somewhere around $250-275,000 a year.
  4. He is already a Philadelphia fan favorite, and his return could help repair damage done this year by former manager Peter Nowak.
  5. He has personal ties to the area that extend beyond the pitch.
  6. He’s still just 28 years old.

The book on Le Toux is that he’s versatile enough to play forward and outside midfield. That’s true, but only to a degree. Four straight MLS coaches have found he doesn’t score much from midfield and isn’t nearly as effective in the role.

Le Toux belongs at striker, where, in 2010, he scored 14 goals in 28 games and, in 2011, once Carlos Ruiz’s departure cleared the way for Le Toux to return to striker, he netted 10 goals in 15 games to close the season. His first touch is occasionally suspect, but his runs and production at striker were indisputable for two years.

This year, Le Toux has rarely played striker. Peter Nowak’s furious rush to offload him to Vancouver put Le Toux on a team already stacked at striker, so Vancouver manager Martin Rennie deployed him primarily on a wing, sometimes in a 4-3-3, sometimes in a 4-4-2. He scored four goals in 18 games before Rennie made the ill-advised decision to replace most of his attackers midseason. Le Toux went to New York for Dane Richards, another player in the final year of his contract. It proved a poor trade for both teams. Le Toux ended up on a team with two of the league’s best strikers, Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper, so he went to right midfield, where his only goal as a Red Bull came in his first game with the team.

Now Le Toux is playing out the string, almost sure to try to leave at season’s end.

The question is whether he will get the chance. Under the Re-Entry Draft’s rules, New York has only to offer Le Toux a contract with a salary equal to the $145,000 salary he makes this year. He’s a bargain at that rate, so don’t be surprised if New York makes him that offer to retain his rights and then trades him.

If New York lets Le Toux go in the Re-Entry Draft, Philadelphia would probably have the sixth pick, based on their 2012 record. Only two players went in the draft’s first six picks last year, with other teams choosing to pass on making any selections.

Finally, Le Toux could look to Europe, but his down season and prior view toward such a move decrease that likelihood.

A Le Toux return to the Union is simply one possible scenario — and maybe not even the best. Union coaches saw Le Toux and McInerney together in practice for two years, and if they determine the two aren’t complimentary, then it’s harder to justify bringing Le Toux back. Union management could opt for a more traditional target forward to pair with McInerney. Or they could fail to find salary budget room for a quality striker. Only time will tell.

But as Hackworth seeks to undo a year’s worth of roster devastation, the old favorite has to at least be in the conversation.



  1. Well, I don’t want him back. But looking at it tactically, it could be interesting. If Hack DOES want to go full speed ahead with the 4-3-3, would Le Toux be a good fit there?
    If so, would he fit better in the middle or on one of the wings? And then where would that put Jack?
    That would be the interesting case, because any other formation I don’t think he would be who we need to pair with Jack.

    • Good questions. I’ll leave the argument on the tactics for the coaches, other than to say Le Toux hasn’t yet proven to be a good winger. I’m actually pretty skeptical the 4-3-3 is the way to go. As a two-man forward line, they COULD potentially fare well together with McInerney playing a similar role to what he’s doing now and Le Toux as a second striker making runs, but I’m not convinced of that either.

      But I do have to ask, James: Do you like anyone over age 24? 😉 This isn’t a U-21 team, you know.

      • DarthLos117 says:

        Too funny!

      • The 4-3-3 isn’t the way to go because we don’t have the personnel to do that. It seems pretty obvious with the results, but apparently the man who should get that doesn’t. Anyway, bringing in Le Toux would further complicate that because he doesn’t play the wing very well. If we go and get him it should be for 1 reason: to score goals. I don’t care about the PR move, I want to win games. If we get Le Toux and he plays winger, he won’t score goals, and he doesn’t add enough on the wings to help Jack Mac up top, so it would be a wasted move. If we move to the 4-2-2 I’ll all about bringing him on, parking Marfan behind him and watching the goals come in.

    • what is wrong with you that you DONT want Le Toux back. have you forgotten he leads the club in goals and assists? WE NEED THAT

  2. Union Rumors says:

    Well, talks HAVE happened between the Union brass and Le Toux, so this scenario has a higher probability of happening than you’d think.

    • How can they be talking to LeToux if, as Dan has written here, the Red Bulls can re-sign him relatively inexpensively and trade him? Doesn’t NYRB hold the cards here? Maybe they aren’t planning to re-sign Le Toux, but they wouldn’t have told him that already when there are games left in the season. And how can we know that no one else would claim him in the Re-entry draft??

      • Yes, New York does hold the cards. And yes, someone else could claim him in the Re-Entry Draft. But yes, word has it the Union had talks with Le Toux at some point after Nowak was fired. I haven’t independently confirmed that, so I didn’t include it in the post. Maybe it’s true; maybe it’s not.

  3. I’d also say — and I know it may not be entirely mature or helpful — I would love to get Le Toux back just to give the ultimate F*ck You to Peter Nowak.

  4. I think you’re qualification “when he plays striker” is key. If you take away his 2 seasons with the USL Sounders (24 goals in 47 games) and his 2 seasons with the Union (25 in 62), he has a paltry
    7 goals in 74 games, or 1 every 10 games. I don’t know what positions he was playing during those times, but since he left Philly he hasn’t played striker much, and while he was here and with the USL Sounders he played forward often, and his numbers are through the roof – 49 goals, 109 games. Nearly a goal every 2 games, which would be much lower if he hadn’t gone on a 20+ game drought last year.
    I’m not sold on Le Toux because 1. I think there are better options and 2. I would feel it was a PR move more than a performance move. I will be fine with it if they make the move, and embrace it if it works, but I’m sure there are better options for our money right now. Just my thought.

    • I’m not sold on such a move, for exactly the same reasons you list. I’d be disappointed if they made this move, but would absolutely hope for the best if they did. Happy to “eat my words” if he comes back and is a big part of the fortunes of the team turning around.

  5. Sebastien L. says:

    I want to come back!

  6. Bring him back. The 4-3-3 hasn’t been as effective as the 4-4-2 featuring Le Toux at forward. He’s at the end of his 20’s but strangely, if drafted by the Union, would be the only striker capable of going the full 90. Hell, we don’t even need to argue tactics, just facts… we need goals. Le Toux, when playing striker, scores them. Not to mention the elation of thousands of fans and Le Toux’s own happiness to play here…

  7. Union fans deserve better than an average striker!

  8. We should bring him back. Its almost a given that we’re going to get rid of some players this off season (coughlopezcough). That’ll trim some salary, not to mention that MASSIVE PILE of ALLOCATION MONEY we’re sitting on. We gotta use it sometime. And if Le Toux loves it here as much as he says, he’ll be up to negotiating. I don’t think he would come in demanding an unreasonable salary. I think they could sign him for 200-300k. That would still leave some room to get a quality defender (not lopez) for depth and probably another good field player.

  9. I have been entertaining this thought and envisioning this. Novak sent HIM packing, not the other way around. He’s a fan favorite and I seriously think it would re-ignite the fanbase and the team.

  10. IF Red Bull doesn’t sign him, AND he falls to us in the Re-Entry Draft, then do it. But if some team with greedy intentions signs him and offers a trade, then no. Because that team would be asking way more than market value because of the history. It would be fun to have le Toux back, but not if we have to pay an Amobi and a leg for him.

  11. I’d love to see it happend. I think it would be great PR for the fans who are a little pissed at the FO for what happened this year. I also think that it would makes sense because we know seba can score when deployed properly. He would just have to take back his #9 from jack-mac

  12. i’d rather get ruiz back. oy. walk away.

  13. Henry O'Hara says:

    Bring him back to make up for this tough year.

  14. DarthLos117 says:

    Will he get #9 shirt?

  15. For that price, I say bring him back. What- are we going to get worse?

  16. It might be a strange comparison for some people, but the poaching style of Ruiz that drew opposite cheers and boos is not that dissimilar from Jack Mac’s poaching. Occassionally, Ruiz might have given us more in hold up play, but Jack lurks, and flashes, and makes that darting run the way that a poacher does….and we all remember how well Le Toux meshed with Ruiz. Was it a personality clash? Was it an attention and “focus of the offense” thing? Or did the style of play just not match up?

    I think Sebastien played his heart out for the Union for two years but only had a real complimentary piece when he played with Ale Moreno. Le Toux runs behind a central striker, loves to run off of hold up play, and likes to be the center of attention making runs on either post. No other striker we have put out there plays with the same combination of physicality and passing acumen as Moreno. He wasn’t a world-beater but the guy was a team player. If given a chance, I think Mwanga and Le Toux would have been the pair that could have developed something special, but it didn’t play out that way. I don’t think the entire team or franchise revolves around Jack now, but I don’t think brining in Seba solves anything but the PR challenges.

    Didn’t we bring in Martinez to be “the speed guy”? And Perlaza to be “the speed guy”? I hear the calls of Union fans for a “DP striker” but are you going to pair a DP caliber player (and ego) with Jack poaching from the middle? I just don’t see it. A “DP central midfielder”? Don’t we have one of those? Grasping at straws me-thinks.

  17. From reading various sites discussing this, I feel like there is some sort of misunderstanding about the whole idea of reacquiring Le Toux

    Le Toux returning to the team does not mean him and Jack Mac have to be the ONLY options at striker. I would be a little disappointed if the team didn’t bring in two new strikers this offseason.

    Also, I understand we all remember Le Toux as a 90 minute starter every game, but the reality is that he most likely won’t play that same role next year.

    And yes, Jack McInerney had a successful year in terms of production, but he’s still only a 20 year old kid. The Union shouldn’t be relying on him to carry the load offensively. He’s earned his minutes, but there’ll be plenty to go around next year.

    Sporting KC is a good example to follow. They have a good core of three capable strikers, and they can mix in youth in Saad and Dwyer, if need be. Having that 3rd proven striker is vital in case of an injury (Bunbury).

    In a perfect world, the Union are able to bring in two strikers to join McInerney for 2013. Personally, I’d like to see Le Toux back, while also picking up a capable target forward. Combine that with the possibility of one of our young forwards stepping up, and 2013 could just see the Union back in the playoffs.

    • James Korman says:

      This is going to be a HUGE off season. Glad to hear we are participating in an MLS sanctioned tourney rather than heading to the islands for preseason prep. I do not see us bringing in 2 legit forwards although we should. We do not appear to be in a position to spend big so the FO needs to get all their roster calls right.

      Can anybody shed light on “multiyear contracts” that any current Union players have? We talk about who should stay and who should go but is it that simple to part ways? I would assume we signed some of the imports (or Freddy Adu) to 2 year contracts, no? Are we locked Into any guaranteed contracts or are they all non-guaranteed in MLS?

      We seem to have accumulated beaucoup allocation money. Can we expect the FO to invest it in next years squad? The transfer window fairy did not bring us any forwards this year. Will we be disappointed again because of cash flow constraints? In a perfect world we would cut ties with some, trade others with value that don’t fit and then take the savings + the allocation money and buy some studs. Cani please be that simple?

    • Correct, Le Toux and Mac wouldn’t be the only options at striker. Could the Union bring in multiple forwards? Yes, but I don’t know that they’ll free up enough salary budget room to bring in two high quality ones. It could be one intended to start and a second veteran who might be a decent contributor but not regular starter. With Hoppenot on the squad, there’s a third quality striker, and you have to think the one most important thing for him to work on in the off-season is his fitness so that he can become a 90-minute player. Hoffman and Martinez also remain untested over the long-term. Some have been willing to deem Martinez a bust more quickly than they do Hoffman, but honestly, Martinez hasn’t played that much more than Hoffman this year, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the Union keep both.

      • I think at this point Martinez has more upside than Hoffman. The staff needs to stick him at one position instead of switching him between the wing and up top.

        Hoffman seems to lack the killer instinct you see from many forwards, or he may just be having trouble adjusting to the physical nature of MLS. In most of his appearances (sans when Nowak oddly played him on the wing vs. VAN) he really gets completely marked out of the game. A lengthy loan to Harrisburg would really do him some good, while protecting his GA status.

  18. It will be a crazy off season. Id like to see le toux come back. I think him and Jac Mac can play together well. though it was often never tried he did score 4 goals in the 900+ minutes he got to play with le toux leading to a goal every 2.5 games played. This year going by minutes he is at a 2.13 gpg this year so its fairly close. Depending on who finally gets healthy, the list of guys I could see leaving include either back-up goalie, carroll, daniel, maybe adu, and 1-2 of the half doezen strikers to be used to make room or aquire depth in the back and 1-2 new strikers.
    next years XI if i was manager, macmath williams-valdes-soumare-garfan okugo marfan-gomez-adu/cruz with mac-letoux if possible in a 4-1-3-2

  19. Maybe its just me, but I still long for the style of play of our first season offensively, just with better goaltending and defense. Would like to see.

    Gaddis Valdes Soumare Williams
    Cruz Marfan Garfan
    Jack Mac Le Toux

    Plus reinforcements

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