Former hero Le Toux prepares to return to face Philly

There’s been something of a bad taste in the Philadelphia air the past few months, with changes aplenty and some of the club’s most respected players departing for pastures new – and not always willingly. Such was the case of Sebastien Le Toux.

Le Toux and FourFourTwo exchange small talk in French ahead of some difficult questions regarding the last six months. The timing is apt, given that Le Toux returns to Philadelphia this week to play against his former employers.

He comes back to PPL Park having already made his mark on the scoresheet – after four minutes of his Vancouver debut. Having moved fairly seamlessly, it’s a throwaway comment that potentially explains how he made such a transition.

“I am, what is the word? Ambidextrous?” he asks. That flexibility with his hands may have stretched to other facets of his life. It was certainly the case at Philadelphia. Not only a goalscorer, Le Toux contributed to 57% of the team’s goals in his two seasons – a staggering feat, and part of the reason so many questioned the decision to move him on.

In a protracted relocation, his destination initially appeared to be Bolton Wanderers. Asked about the trial in Lancashire, he interjects. “I wouldn’t really call it a trial, more a visit. I wasn't ready physically and after I came back things went very fast with the trade.”

As fans registered their concern at the decision to let him join Vancouver, Le Toux opted to tell his story. Considering how often the intricacies of player trades go unknown, the Frenchman was breaking from convention.

Many attributed his open nature to the fact he lacked representation, something he has since rectified. “I’ve got someone else since this happened. I’ve had agents before in my career when I was younger.”

It also seemed to serve as testament to Le Toux the man. When it came to dealing with the Union, he felt a middleman wasn’t needed. A cynic may call this naive; an optimist would prefer to term it admirable.

It’s very easy to feel sympathy for Le Toux. As he tries to move on with his career, the story crops up again and again, like a bitter divorce. Was he angry? “I was frustrated at how he [coach Piotr Nowak] treated me, but I have a lot of friends from there. My girlfriend is from there. I'm trying to turn the page and focus on my career with the Vancouver Whitecaps.”

Le Toux is polite and answers every question honestly. Having had time to calm himself, he's less outspoken than before. The same can’t be said for Nowak. His weekly press conference was peppered with questions of Le Toux’s return and the coach manager decided against diplomacy.

Asked how he thought Le Toux would be welcomed back, the former DC United manager replied "Maybe confetti, maybe a parade and banners. I have no idea what it's going to be like and I'm not worried about that whatsoever."

As Chris Vito of the Delco Times reported, it didn’t end there, Nowak continuing his discourse with one reporter for sometime after the press conference had finished, much to the surprise of those in attendance.  

By contrast Le Toux’s approach is far more relaxed. Asked how he will come down from the emotions of the weekend’s game, he replies with typical understatement: “I like to drink wine and listen to music. I’m very thankful to be doing what I do, and living my dream.”

His more tranquil disposition may be due to a healthy relationship with Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie. His early report is glowing, with Rennie seeming to offer much of what he missed towards the end of his stay in the city of Brotherly Love.

“He’s a great person; I’m very happy he is my manager now,” says Le Toux. “Martin is very communicative with the players, his door is always open. You know you can count on him, and he can count on you.”

Vancouver will be hoping to rely on Le Toux this weekend. Philadelphia’s season has begun with three defeats and staunch criticism of the new project being undertaken by the club. It’s a stark juxtaposition with Vancouver, who sit atop the Western Conference with seven points and optimism bubbling nicely in the Canadian city after a tough inaugural season in MLS.

But if Vancouver is quickly becoming a home from home, how will Le Toux feel to play at PPL Park as a visitor? He laughs and pauses to consider his words, not through difficulties with the language barrier – his English is flawless – but as he tries to assess and order his emotions.

“I’m looking forward to playing in front of my family and my friends in there. I will be focused on winning the game for my team.” And with this diplomatically polite answer, Sebastien Le Toux leaves to prepare for the final 90 minutes of this chapter.

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