If Philadelphia Union fans had expected 2012 to be a simple year of growth, they may have another thing coming.
Or a major cog going.
Yesterday, Ives Galarcep broke a surprising story about the potential sale of Sebastien Le Toux to a European club. Given that the versatile Frenchman tweeted the night before about being on a flight to England, the rumor became much more reasonable to believe. Earlier today, Bolton manager Owen Coyle confirmed the Le Toux was a trialist with the club for the next week. It should be mentioned that, from Coyle’s own words, the prospects of this becoming a permanent transfer seemed less of a certainty as the initial reports from the Fox Soccer columnist.
The last two weeks have been a little hairy for the Union. Galarcep reported prior to the SuperDraft that the Zolos were shopping Danny Mwanga, the first SuperDraft pick of the Union’s existence. The trouble with Mwanga is that he came off of the Adidas payroll for 2012, and his full wages should be greater than $230,000 against the Union salary cap. Mwanga’s production dropped in 2011. This lent credence to the notion that Mwanga could be headed out.
When John Hackworth dispelled those rumors, everyone thought that the Union would pick defensive depth early in the draft. Instead, they took the best player on the board, Chandler Hoffman from UCLA – a forward. That brought the total up top to 5 strikers, once you count former Saprissa striker Josue Martinez and candidate for the U23 Olympic Team Jack McInerney. It’s a crowded house up front, and something was bound to give.
That seems to be Le Toux. There is one major problem. Walk through the parking lot at PPL Park, and the jersey you see most is the #9. The man has been an enigma; a player who left the second division of France to come to America to play in Major League Soccer. His efforts to find top-division work failed, so Le Toux signed with USL First Division club Seattle Sounders FC. He had some great moments in the lower league, earning the league MVP in 2007. Once Seattle entered MLS however, he struggled to find goals.
When the Sounders left Le Toux unprotected in the 2009 Expansion Draft, the Union selected him fourth. It would be tough to believe that two years later, Le Toux would be the beloved starlet of the squad. That’s what happens when a guy works his tail off in the city of Philadelphia. “Seba,” as he’s known,” would hassle opposing defenders and goalkeepers as they tried to launch their attack. He’d bust down the wing to chase a long ball, then cut back and try to find a teammate breaking towards the goal. He’d play as a full back if the team needed a goal, so more attackers could enter the formation. Le Toux wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Plus, especially in the inaugural season for Philadelphia, he was the guy most likely to get the crowd, “Dooping.”
That would explain why he’s wanted by Bolton. The Trotters are in a rough place, second to last in the Premier League table. Last season, they were successful in a two-pronged attack. Target forward Kevin Davies and smooth striker Johan Elmander put Bolton in the top half for much of the season. When Elmander cooled off, Daniel Sturridge came in on loan from Chelsea and provided an added burst. They are now without both Elmander and Sturridge, and perhaps Coyle sees Le Toux as a similar deceptively fast striker (and more importantly, finisher) as those players.
What about the Union? You don’t want to hamper a player like Le Toux in going to play in the best league in the world. Certainly they would need to pay Le Toux a steep wage to keep him in the US, and while he has been a popular player, there are no indications that the Union can afford to pay that kind of salary. This would solve two problems: 1) it reduces the logjam at the forward position, and 2) it frees up the money from Le Toux’s salary under the cap to give Mwanga more time to develop. Additionally, Bolton should offer a good transfer fee, which could allow Philadelphia to bring in another big name to draw fans.
But before we get too far ahead, it’s only a trial. Until he signs a contract to be paid in British pounds, he’s still Philadelphia’s top player. It will be tough for Union fans to see him go, but Le Toux deserves his shot to prove he can do in Bolton as he did in Philadelphia.