Featured / Union

Prodigal Son: The Case for Le Toux

Photo: Paul Rudderow

As rumors about the possibility of re-signing Philly’s own prodigal son, Sebastien “Excuse to use the term Franchise Player” Le Toux fly about cyberspace, the Fandom (a loose coalition of casual supporters, die-hard obsessives, attention-seeking bloggers for whom snark is meant to substitute for expertise, and something called “trolls”) has found its latest reason to be embroiled in debate.

Do we want Seba back? For a great deal of the Fandom, that question is so rhetorical as to border on jest. Do we want back the player who functioned as the centerpiece of our offense? Do we want back the player who arguably enjoyed the most name recognition on the squad? Do we want back the man who put meth-addicted terriers to shame with the boundlessness of his energy and ability to cover ground? Does the Pope shit in the woods?

But it’s not that simple. Wait, said the Fandom’s collective Voice of Restraint. Le Toux is aged. He left on less-than-ideal terms. There was a demonstrable nosedive in his goal productivity for us and both of his subsequent teams. While Seba captured hearts, the Voice argued, his strategic usefulness is at best questionable, and his relationship with the U soured by the circumstances of his departure.

No doubt the Voice of Restraint was joined in that chorus by the Voice of Contrarianism, also known as the Voice of the Need to Demonstrate One’s Originality by Going Against the Grain. The case against Le Toux, while worth considering, doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.

The Awkward Departure

We’ve all read the quotes, mostly from the Delaware County Times, about how Le Toux’s demands for a raise eventually devolved into an alleged plea to keep his Snakes and Stars regardless of pay. Le Toux had sharp and candid words that, despite the seductive accent, belied a whirlpool of bitter rage at a management team that allegedly saw old Al Location as their number one draft pick, the team and the fans be damned. Following the trade, Seba also let slip a mild but petulant comment about the U’s chances of success in his absence.

But the vast majority of that ire was directed at one mustache-twirling villain—Pete Nowak. Ladies and gentleman, Nowak is no more. Does anyone truly believe that Nick Sakiewicz will hold a grudge? He’s a businessman, as cold and dispassionate in his calculations as Nowak was heated and personal. Beef with management is a non-issue. As for the team, show me the player who took anything Seba said to heart, and I’ll show you the player who’s evolved enough to get over it if it means having an offensive leader on the pitch again.

As for the Fandom, Le Toux’s reception at PPL whenever he comes back speaks for itself.

The Strategic Argument

Would a re-acquired Le Toux be for us in 2013 what he was in 2010? Those who answer no cite his age, his relative mediocrity as a goal scorer, and the notion of either Jack McInerney and/or some major acquisition, perhaps a DP, as a better alternative.

Poppycock. Le Toux is 28, with no major injury concerns to speak of and the endurance of several men several years his junior. Combine that with the touch and experience of a veteran, and you’ve got a rare kind of potential—the lungs of youth with the wisdom of age.

As has been repeatedly pointed out, this team is too damn young (really a consequence of Commandant Nowak’s supposed grand design to build a long-term super club). The U needs some age, on the pitch and in the locker room. Jack Mac is a professional orphan at this point, having his only potential offensive mentors either shipped off (Seba) or proven useless (Ruiz, Pajoy). A working relationship with Le Toux would do wonders for both of them, not to mention Hoppenot.

As for Le Toux’s productivity, the lack thereof can be explained very simply. From Philly to Canada to the pool of industrial feces that is North Jersey, Sebastien Le Toux has only failed to produce when played out of position.

From the moment Carlos Ruiz stepped off the plane, Seba’s career has been the story of a man shoved to midfield to make room for this or that striker. Judge him not on the stats from that third of the pitch; when Le Toux is up top, he gets it done. That’s why he was unstoppable in 2010 and half of 2011. The man is a forward, and when he’s used as such, everyone wins—except the other team of course.

Bring Him Home

As it stands, the Union’s scoring options are thus: continue to rely on developing youngsters (unfair and ineffective), try another mediocre import (boring and ineffective), or go for a DP (expensive and risky). Sebastien Le Toux is a known quantity, a proven goal scorer when applied correctly, and most importantly a symbolic talisman for a team still reeling from personnel-related controversy.

Which brings us, as ever, to the stands. The return of Sebastien Le Toux would go a long way towards repairing the damage done in Season 3, and begin filling the enthusiasm gap left in Nowak’s angry wake.  The thing that has always separated the Union from the rest of Philadelphia’s teams (and most of the rest of MLS) has been an especially intimate connection between fans and players, predicated more on personality and heart than on stats.  If the Fandom drives the team, it’s the narrative that drives the Fandom—and we could use a good comeback tale.

Plus, I hear the SoB’s grill up a mean fatted calf.

36 Comments

  1. I’m with you on some of this, and if the price tag is reasonable I’d want him back too (not that we’ll know for quite some time).

    However, the “touch and experience of a veteran” comment? I love the guy and his running, but he has the first touch of an adult-rec-league veteran.

    • His first touch may not be stellar, but it is something to be desired if your name is Danny Cruz. We probably won’t know exactly when/if Le Toux will be acquired through the re-entry draft (presumably), but roster freeze ends on Dec 2nd, so I’d expect a good deal of player movement/release to happen shortly thereafter, especially those jettisoned by RBNY.

    • I think he had a decent touch. I know this wasn’t all the time, but really…..it was the PERFECT first touch. And it was passed by Roger, so it makes it even better. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_UWZDb5D8x4 3:20

  2. James "4-3-3" Forever says:

    The “played out of position” thing is actually something I look at as a negative. Because to me that means if he comes here, he comes here as a guaranteed 90 minute striker. And that’s a lateral move for us, I think.
    For all his success here, you have to be honest with his play and realize he has plenty of flaws, and wonder how much of his numbers come down to being the go to guy for a expansion team. Because, based on his cold streaks and stone touches, it ain’t like he was a menace on the field constantly.
    And if we are going to look for a striker to rest our hopes on, I would rather it be a DP who atleast fits into the stereotype we obviously need from a striker instead of a PR feel good move.

    • Who’s to say a DP would be an automatic improvement? There have probably been more mediocre/bust DPs than successful ones.

  3. Haha, Seattle will gladly take him back (at least the fans will) if Philly doesn’t want him. I still want to punch Adrian Hanauer in the balls for not protecting him.

  4. With all due respect, I don’t like the idea of bringing Let Toux back so don’t use “we” and imply the feelings are universal. I loved him while he was here, and hated to see him go but I moved and so should “we”. The Union need 3 things in a striker – height, physicality and goals. Let Toux scored for us when no one else could, and hasn’t scored everywhere else. Jack has more headed goals then Seba. And we need a player who can play with his back to goal and hold up the play, and that’s not what he does. Le Toux plays like a winger but can only score when he’s up top. If Hackworth wants to play the 4-3-3 (which I also disagree with) Le Toux would not be a help to the team. In a 4-4-2 he would fit better but I still feel like the money could be better utilized.

    • I keep hearing that we need a striker who can play with his back to the goal and hold up play. We had that in Pajoy. He is actually one of the best in the league in this regard (arguably his only strength- and why Ben Olsen loves him), and that didn’t seem to work out too well for us.

    • “The Union need 3 things in a striker…”

      No. They NEED just one thing: goals. The rest is irrelevant.

  5. Ask yourselve the following:
    .
    Would acquiring Le Toux make us a better or worse TEAM?
    .
    I don’t think any of us could honestly say, we would be worse as a TEAM with Le Toux on the roster.
    .
    For the record, I am neither for nor against his return…I just want a better team that can compete over course of an entire season…I just dont get how anybody can argue he wouldnt help and would hurt us as a team.

    • Well said.
      ~
      It’s very simple. The Union need a veteran striker who will adequately compliment Jack McInerney, increase their goal tally, and improve the team as a whole so that they win more games and play more attractive soccer — and they need to get the best deal for the money.
      ~
      Le Toux will probably cost about $250-275k in salary. It’s pretty simple: If he’s the best bang for the buck, particularly once you consider his ties to Philly, you sign him. And if he’s not, then you don’t.

  6. I always loved SLT’s heart, work ethic, commitment to the team and the fans, etc.

    But, he only seems to be effective if the team plays early, long balls for him to chase. That’s at odds with what Hack has been trying to build with his kiddie corps.

  7. Snake and the Stars says:

    you obviously didn’t watch any Union matches in 2011 if you think Ruiz was useless, just look at his stats and goals per 90 compared to Le Toux that year. What do you want? A gritty Philadelphia type guy who gives it his all, but has a brick foot and no scoring touch? You probaly do. You would rather have a player who loves the Philly fans and does nothing on the field, rather than a diva goal scorer. Learn the game. It’s not all about getting a player with a “Philly” type mentality.

    • Call me an extremist, but at this stage in the U’s development, fighting for every inch of space in the Philly sports market, I WOULD choose a player who connected with fans over one who connected with the back of the net. And I do understand how nutty that sounds.

      • As for Ruiz, this and many other articles make it clear- Le 2’s stats were worse that year because he was shoved aside to midfield to accomodate Ruiz- the supposed gunslinger who could only just be bothered to stand around the box waiting for someone to feed him another 1-0 victory.

      • More like Conor O’Nutty. Just lost all cred. I dont want a friend. I want a winning team consisting of winning player…who cares if they need a translator, who cares if they embody everything that philly fans are…

      • If anyone sees any cred laying around, I just lost it…please return it to PSP c/o Conor. Thx

  8. Good article Conor but you left out the numbers. You know, the ones with dollar signs next to them. How much would he cost to acquire, and how much would he be paid? My best guesses are not much and not much, certainly less than $100,000 to acquire and less than $250,000 per year, and if those numbers are even close to reality then I think he should come back. Said another way, in pure economic terms he likely has higher value to Philadelphia than he does to any other team, and perhaps for that reason above all there’s a decent chance he’ll be back.

    • Well pointed out- I only implied that he’d be cost-effective in saying a DP would be “expensive and risky.” What you said makes an even stronger case.

    • He’s out of contract, and the last one was at $179K per year. Does SLT have to go through the re-entry process? The Union would not be guaranteed in that process. Think TFC has first dibs. RBNY could also retain his rights for as low as $145K I think too. SO while SLT could help solve the scoring issue (though not single-handedly), not sure it’s a done deal.

  9. You can’t score as many goals as Le Toux did in Philly with no scoring touch. Find me another striker in MLS that scored as many goals as Le Toux did over the course of 2010/2011 that has no scoring touch.Your search would be in vain, it does not happen. He scored 25 goals in two seasons!Furthermore, if his touch in general is so poor how do you explain 20 assists in two years? 20 assists in two MLS seasons would be a boon for a player on a team replete with scoring options, much less OUR own Philly U.

    Jack Mac is a Center Forward. I don’t care how tall he is. Jack Mac is excellent in the air. I don’t care how tall he is. Le Toux excels at cutting in from the wing, albeit usually from the right and from and advanced position. This relationship could easily be symbiotic in either a 4-3-3 or a 4-4-2 with Le Toux in a more right-sided role in both instances.

    I don’t think the fact that both players are poachers is a bad thing. We need more than one player to consistently crash the box and pressure the opposing teams back four. In the end I would rather have a known and PROVEN quantity that does not require DP pay.

  10. Id love to have him back, count me as part of the “we”.

  11. I love Seba and want to see him back. HOWEVER….

    He plays the same position as Jack and Hoffman, who will both be back. We need a holding striker, not another quick energetic guy.

    We already have five CDMs (Okugo, Carroll, Gomez, Lahoud, Jordan) and can’t afford to accumulate more depth at two spots when we are understaffed at the 7 other spots on the field (the U has adequate depth and talent at GK and RB).

    I want him back, but not if Nick will view his return as a surrogacy for a forward-pushing midfielder, a holding striker, CB depth and a bona fide LB.

  12. Snake and the Stars says:

    Saying that you would rather have a player who is connected with the fans over a player who is connected with the back of the net says that you know nothing about the beautiful game,and you are a typical fanboy. Nothing is more important than scoring goals and winning. I take it that also prob want Califf back as starting CB?? Again, learn the game

    • How about someone who connects both with the fans and the back of the net? 25 goals in 62 games with the Union is nothing to scoff at.

    • The point is that a certain amount of fanboy-ism will bring (and keep) asses in the seats, which is a higher priority for the future of the club right now. Since half of Philly is still “learning the game,” something needs to coax them down to Chester consistently. The selloffs damaged the brand, and a club that can’t pay the bills(or taxes in our case) can’t win cups. Learn the business.

  13. Conor – love the article, especially these moments:

    “attention-seeking bloggers for whom snark is meant to substitute for expertise”

    “meth-addicted terriers”

    “the Voice of the Need to Demonstrate One’s Originality by Going Against the Grain.”

    and of course, “Poppycock.” Good stuff!

    As a “diehard obsessive” I’ll add my 2 cents:

    For purely emotional reasons, of course I want him back. For strategic reasons, I want him back as well, but the cost is important. If we truly want to compete next year, we need to spend money. Seba would not complete the wish list by any means, so the deal would have to leave room for a couple other big signings.

    Where is Jay Sugarman and his deep pockets? Is he serious about funding an exciting team? If not, I expect we may see a continued vicious cycle of financial demise in our club (similar to Nick’s previous enterprises – Tampa Bay Mutiny and never delivering on a soccer stadium in NY).

  14. I have no prob with LeToux coming back. I would like to see resources put towards a strong, experienced and play producing mid fielder. Look at Houston, they have depth in the middle. LA may be an extreme examplewith Becks, but we need someone to run the team from the middle of the field. Then we can have all our youngsters follow and produce.

    This is one of the toughest positions to fill, but we should be out there looking…..

  15. We need Falcao and Xavi. PSP, please make this happen. (I’d settle for Andy Carroll instead of Falcao.)

  16. James Korman says:

    I don’t really believe that the FO will bring in a DP though I wish they would. I just don’t see it. We dumped so much salary last year it was painful. That said, I would certainly take LeToux back rather than 2 or 3 meaningless depth signings. He could return to form and start scoring goals at a healthy clip again.

    I’m very, very concerned about the off season roster decisions based on last years trades. I’m hoping like crazy the FO reverses field and deploys all our allocation cash AND signs some starters.

    Allocation money? Where the heck is it?

    • JK you are onto something. I have seen zero evidence that the FO has any interest in spending money to help this team. On the contrary, many decisions can be explained by their desire to not spend money.

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