Season Reviews

Season review: Sebastien Le Toux

Photo: Paul Rudderow

While the Union were suffering through the 2012 season, their cast-aside talisman, Sebastien Le Toux, was not finding things any easier outside Philadelphia. Despite some strong play for the Vancouver Whitecaps, Martin Rennie changed course mid-season, shipping Le Toux back across the country to Harrison, NJ. Arriving at a Red Bulls club with an established superstar and supporting players who knew their roles, Le Toux struggled to fit in. Unaccustomed to playing as a wide man and reluctant to serve as a set up man when deployed up top, Le Toux could only muster a single goal and assist in his 14 appearances for New York.

When John Hackworth stepped into the void left by Peter Nowak, the rumors began to swirl surrounding the Union’s desire to reacquire Le Toux.

Opinion was split on the acquisition. While Le Toux’s direct, hard-running style of attack endeared him to the PPL Park crowd and helped a team with little identity over the franchise’s two years, it was hardly a sophisticated form of offense around which to build. Besides, once Hackworth offered Jack McInerney the opportunities he had been denied under Nowak, the young striker stepped confidently into the spotlight, grabbing 8 goals and helping the Union to find their form down the stretch.

Finally, whether it was for purely soccer purposes, or in part to offer their battered fan base an olive branch, on December 6, 2012, the Union re-acquired Le Toux, bringing a Union original back to Philadelphia.

Despite making a goalscoring start to his second stint with the Union, Le Toux found minutes at striker difficult to come by. As the season progressed and the tandem of McInerney and Conor Casey grew into one of the top partnerships in MLS, Le Toux was asked to assume a different role. Roaming the right flank, he became a provider, chasing balls up the line and into the corner before delivering crosses for his two in-form strikers to bury.

The accuracy of his service from open play was mirrored by a newfound quality in his set piece delivery. For all the positives Le Toux brought the Union in 2010 and 2011, consistent precision on corner kicks and set pieces did not number among that list. Yet, in 2013, Le Toux had figured it out. With targets like Casey, McInerney and Amobi Okugo to aim for, Le Toux grew into the role of dead ball specialist for the Union.

By mid-August, he led the league with 12 assists. But as quickly as he had ascended into his new role, it was taken from him. Moving to left mid, Le Toux lacked the attacking potency he had on the right and quickly lost his confidence and form before ultimately succumbing to a foot injury that limited his participation in the final matches in October.

Le Toux 2013 statsHigh Point

It only took 17 minutes for Le Toux to make his mark in 2013. In a surprising move, Hackworth began the new campaign with McInerney, arguably the breakout player of 2012 along with Okugo, on the bench. Leading the line by himself, Le Toux gave Matt Besler and Aurelien Collin plenty of problems as his tenacious running and high pressure kept Kansas City pinned back. With the visitors on the back foot, Le Toux burst into the box after 17 minutes. Using a clever touch to settle Keon Daniel’s bending service, Le Toux sent a rasping shot past Jimmy Nielsen and just inside the post to send PPL Park into delirium.

Low Point

A curious thing happened with 10 games remaining in the season. Hackworth simply stopped using Le Toux on the right side of midfield. Without warning, the Union’s most prolific provider was swapped onto the left flank, with Danny Cruz taking his place on the right. Suddenly the Union’s most consistent line of service was cut.

The results were disastrous for Le Toux, who lacked the discipline to hug the left touchline and the skill to consistently serve the ball with his left foot. Over the final 10 games of the season, Le Toux failed to take part in a single Union goal, neither as the scorer, nor the provider. Out of form and frustrated, he succumbed to a late season foot injury to end a positive personal campaign on a sour note.

Strengths

Straight, direct running. When deployed wide, Le Toux was at his best when he kept things simple. Racing onto balls played ahead of him, he took the minimal number of touches before serving the ball into the box. With a workrate that allows him to consistently support his fullback, Le Toux has the pace to then burst onto a ball played up his touchline.

Weaknesses

Lacks the complete skill set required of an everyday forward, as he not only struggles with his back to goal, but also with his touch and passing in build-up play. When deployed on the left flank, his right-footed tendencies saw him drift into the heart of the pitch, stealing space and touches from his teammates.

Outlook

A 12 goal-campaign from McInerney and the reemergence of Casey on the MLS stage spells trouble for Le Toux’s prospects of winning consistent minutes up front for the Union in 2014. Hackworth’s preference for Cruz on the right flank means that Le Toux might find himself in a three-way competition with Michael Farfan for an opportunity in the midfield. This would be harsh on Le Toux who, despite being forced to adapt to a midfield role on the fly in 2013, became the Union’s only consistent source of service. Had Cruz and Le Toux not switched flanks when they did, the Union would likely have scored a few more goals and may have made the playoffs.

Le Toux will turn 30 before the 2014 campaign kicks off, but with the energy and hustle he provides, he can still be an important contributor for the Union going forward.

4 Comments

  1. Allez Le Toux!

  2. His switch to the left side might be the most frustrating thing that happened all year. We started the year by asking the fan favorite forward to play as a midfielder and through his determination he managed to make it work and he lead the league in assists. Everyone saw the success he had and how it helped the team succeed. He was then asked to switch to a new position and both Le Toux and the team suffered for it. Why not switch him back? We had a formation that clearly worked then switched to one that clearly did not. And even after the ineffectiveness of the change became crystal clear we still stuck with it for some reason rather than switch back to the proven more successful formation. The situation had very little ambiguity and it still makes me grind my teeth when I think about it.

  3. I love this man.

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