Player

10 December 1:39 pm

It’s week five of the #UnionTop10, just one more week before you select the Final Five winners.

Last week in Week No. 4, it was this pairing between Zac MacMath’s heroic saves in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal against FC Dallas that was matched up against the atmosphere of the fans in attendance in September’s U.S. Open Cup final.

After the dust settled, it was MacMath and his pair of stops against Blas Perez and Victor Ulloa that moved on with nearly 62 percent of the vote. While many of you commented on Facebook regarding the unforgettable nature of the USOC finals atmosphere at PPL Park, MacMath and his efforts will move on.

Coincidentally enough, it’s a pair of saves that are looking to move in this final week of voting as a pair of memorable stops kept hope alive in both matches for the Philadelphia Union. First up, we offer these back-to-back clearances off the line from Carlos Valdes against D.C. United. If you can’t recall this one, so after saving an attempt from Conor Casey, United goalkeeper Bill Hamid quickly restarts play with a long service to Fabian Espindola.

Espindola gets in clean on goal and looks as if his well-placed shot by Zac MacMath was going in until...

So it’s a pair of beauties from Valdes against another huge MacMath moment when he secured the Union a point in the final moments of the club’s match against Chicago earlier this season. On a windy April day and with time winding down, MacMath came up huge against at the time the reigning MLS MVP in Fire midfielder Mike Magee.

Not once, but twice…

Last pairing before YOU select the “Final Five.” Will it be Valdes coming up clutch against United or MacMath coming up huge against Chicago to preserve a point on the road? Vote below and then for the last time when we place the five finalists in order for you to decide the definitive best play of 2014; as always thanks to those that have voted and tell us why you picked who you did in the comments below. Voting  this week is open until next Tuesday, Dec. 16.

Voting window for the Final Five pairings will open Wednesday, Dec. 17 and close with a champion moment crowned on Friday, Dec. 19.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

26 November 11:41 am

Week No. 2 of the #UnionTop10 is in the books and it was youth over experience as a matchup between homegrown midfielder Zach Pfeffer and veteran forward Conor Casey found Pfeffer moving on to the "Final Five" with over 75 percent of the vote.

Both plays were awesome but you the fans have spoken and so it’ll be Pfeffer and his first ever goal in Major League Soccer that moves on along with Andrew Wenger's first ever Union goal , a winner in Week No. 1.

Now as we move onto Week No. 3, it's another Wenger special up against a great goal earlier this year from Danny Cruz in a commanding win against New England in Foxborough, Mass.

But first, we examine Wenger’s blast against San Jose, his first of two in a 4-2 win over the Earthquakes in August. What makes this one special is the amount power and sheer lack of an angle Wenger has when he blasts this one past San Jose’s Jon Busch.

What’s great on this play is (well, besides the ball into the box from Sebastien Le Toux) is how it looks as though Wenger’s first touch fails him. Playing the ball away from the onrushing defender it gave the illusion that Wenger killed his angle in front of net, but the turn of the hips and hitting the ball dead on made no mistake that it was headed top shelf.

Moving on…

It’s only right to pair that one with another great goal this season, this one from Danny Cruz against New England. Now with this one, yes the shot was insane in its own right, but watch the run from Cruz which starts at the edge of the Revs’ 18-yard-box.

After taking this one basically coast to coast, the speedy midfielder takes advantage of the ridiculous amount of space given by Revs defenders and launches a “Cruz missile” (see what we did there?) that gave Brad Knighton no chance of getting a hand on it. What’s great about this play is that Cruz smartly took advantage of the spacing between him and defender AJ Soares and use what has always been a trademark power shot to put the Union ahead, 2-0 in the eventual 3-1 win.

Okay, you’re up. Which one moves on? Will it be Wenger’s goal from virtually no angle or Cruz’ fast break and rocket shot? Polls are open now until next Tuesday, Dec. 2 so vote for your favorite and tell us why in the comments below.

Thanks for all who have voted so far. We’ll be back with our Week No. 4 pairings next Wednesday, Dec. 3.

Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at kgabriel@philadelphiaunion.com

23 July 3:42 pm

As a coach I have heard all of the excuses as to why people can’t commit to a training program. I understand that everyone is overbooked and has very hectic lives but when it comes to our health we need to find the time.  Here are some of the more common responses I hear from people as to why they are unable to start a program and improve their health and fitness.

  • I don’t belong to a gym.
  • At the end of the day the last thing I feel like doing is exercising.
  • It costs too much to eat healthy.
  • I use to be in good shape back in high school but now I don’t really have any reason to exercise.
  • I have kids and I just can’t find the time to exercise.
  • I am too old.
  • I don’t want to get big and bulky so why should I lift weights.

Blah, blah, blah!!!! Now that you are done making these excuses I am going to share with you TEN ways that you can improve your health in less than TEN minutes a day by implementing some of these ideas into your routine. Now, these tips are not going to get you in shape to do an Ironman, however, they will get you headed down the path towards feeling better and hopefully convince you that you do not need to spend hours upon hours exercising to see gains in your overall health.

Are you ready? Here we go.

1. Have a morning ritual

When you pop out of bed tomorrow instead of reaching for your cell phone to “update your status” take ten minutes for yourself. By simply talking ten minutes it can have a big impact on how your day goes.  Instead of reaching for your phone that will most likely stress you out and raise your cortisol levels, here is what you can do:

Get a big glass of water with lemon (good for digestion)

Walk outside barefoot and get some sunlight (it helps set your circadian rhythm which is critical to your sleep cycle)

Meditate for 5 minutes and take some deep diaphragmatic breaths.

2. Go for a walk without your cell phone

Walking is so good for you. It can improve your mobility, posture as well as strengthen your heart. However, when I see someone walking with their cell phone I can’t help but think that they are not moving efficiently. Unless it’s an emergency put the phone down and WALK. Move your arms with a purpose. Don’t just “simply fall forward”. Pick up your feet, move your arms and clear your head for 10 minutes and watch what happens to your attitude as well as your energy.

3. Do ten (10) minutes of pull ups

Pull-ups are so good for you. They can improve your posture as well as your grip strength. They can develop a strong back and improve your speed when you run. Here is how you can do it: Find a pull-up bar and set a timer. Do as many as you can in ten minutes. If you can’t do any than use a resistance band (buy them here with this link: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm).  Rest whenever you need  to rest. Record your number and do this for eight (8) weeks and see how much you improve from week to week.

4. Run hill sprints

Hill sprints are great way to build strength and endurance. Plus, it’s a safe way to run when it comes to hamstring pulls and other soft tissue injuries. Find a hill that takes anywhere from 10-30 seconds to run up. Walk back down and repeat.

5. Bear Crawl

If you want one exercise that can improve mobility, stability, flexibility, strength, gait as well as your endurance than head out to a park or field and do some bear crawls. Simply get down on all fours and crawl. I would recommend that you crawl for 30 seconds and then rest for 30 seconds. Do this 10 for a great workout.

6. Resistance Band Training

If you don’t belong to a gym resistance band training is the perfect option for you. Simply purchase a set of bands (red, black or purple) and head to a park or your own backyard. Set the timer and try these 3 exercises.

  • Band chest press: 10 reps
  • Band rows: 10 reps
  • Band resistance runs: 15 seconds

Rest for 30 seconds and repeat.

7. Yoga

I have only done yoga a handful of times, however, I always feel better at the end of the session than I did at the beginning.  A great way to add this to your routine is to take a class with an instructor and implement some of the movements into your own routine. Yoga can be a great way to relive stress as well as improve mobility.  Men, especially, can really benefit from adding yoga to their routine.

8.  Walk barefoot on the grass

Over the past couple of years the topic of “earthing” has become more and more popular. A simple way to “ground” yourself is to walk barefoot on the grass either first thing in the morning (wet grass is best) or any time of day. It can help with jetlag, sleep disturbances, recovery as well as muscle aches and pains. Give it a shot.  All of you have to do is walk or sit on the grass or sand (the beach is a great place to do this. Think about it, don’t you always feel better on the beach?)

9. Play with your dog

When it comes to having a dog there are so many benefits. One of the best things that you can do for both your dog and yourself is to play in the backyard or park. Dogs love to run short sprints and then relax (sounds like the perfect interval to me). Get outside, run with the dog and then relax. Do this for 10 minutes and you will have worked on your speed, mobility, and agility.

10. Walk with a loved one

I don’t think I need to explain this but I will. All of us are so busy (myself included) and we need to stop and spend time with our loved ones. A simple 10 minute walk can have tremendous health benefits for you. Put the cell phone away, hold hands (you will get some great hormone benefits by holding hands by releasing Oxytocin) and walk and talk.

Well, there you have it. Ten ways in ten minutes to improve your health. Nowhere on this list do you see anything about a gym membership or boot camp instructors screaming at you. Get outside today and implement these tips and watch your health improve.

Good luck!

Follow Union fitness coach Kevin Miller on Twitter: @kmillertraining and on Instagram: kevinmillertraining. Also, Miller is a featured panelist on Philly.com's Sports Doc blog: http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/sportsdoc). For best practices along with additional health and fitness tips, check out: Philly.com/Health

11 November 1:41 pm

After our last regular season game against Sporting Kansas City, we unfortunately didn’t make the playoffs this year.

We were so close but we missed the final sprint to get over the hump. This difficult ending will really motivate us more to redeem ourselves and be in the playoffs next season.

So, enough about talking of the past, now I am focusing in the present and this offseason. What are my plans during this offseason?

We are now at the beginning of November and our preseason should probably start around mid-January so I have two months to prepare myself for the next season.

The most important thing right now for me is to get healthy. At the end of the season, I got an injury in my right foot. I need to recover from this injury before I start any running. So to begin my offseason I am going to rest my body. It’s important to stop playing for a little bit, but with my injury I didn’t even think about it. I am going to start working out probably at the beginning of December. I usually do a gym workout 3-4 times a week with some running. When we get closer to the preseason I will try to go out on the field and have some fun with the ball, probably go out there with some of my teammates who are already in town.

For most of the time during this offseason I will be staying in the Philadelphia area. My fiancé is from Philadelphia, so I am going to spend both the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays here. I already planned to go to France for just few days in November. I will have just a quick visit to see my family and friends.

Our offseason is always during the winter, so I like to find a sunny destination for a week of vacation. I don’t know yet where I will go this year but I am planning on it.

I wish you a wonderful time during the Holidays, a happy Thanksgiving and a Merry Christmas!

Thank you for all your support during this season.

Talk you to you soon.

Merci Beaucoup

Sebastien Le Toux  No. 11

04 October 3:36 pm

In this edition of my blog, I am going to look back on the regular season and the best highlights of my team -- and some of my own.

I am going to talk also of the playoffs push for our last for games of the regular season.

It has been a long season and we are now in the last two months of it and it is all very close in the standings.

But let’s start from the beginning. First home opener at PPL Park and my comeback in this beautiful stadium playing in my favorite jersey. I could not have dreamed of a better scenario than scoring the opening goal in my first game. This moment will be always in my memory because it was a beautiful feeling that I missed the previous year.

We started the season with a loss at home but got back on track right away with our first win in Colorado. Nobody was betting on us to have a great season and make the playoffs this year after losing our home opener against Sporting Kansas City but I think after winning this away game, lots of people were probably surprised and it gave us lots of positve energy to continue playing this way. In my experience, the way your team kicks off the new season always points to how well you do during the course of it, and after three games we had two wins and just one loss.

During the whole season , we always stayed in the top five of MLS' Eastern Conference standings, which as you know are the spots for the playoffs. And what helped us doing this was to be consistent. We had our best result of the year in the month of June. We were undefeated; in four matches we amassed two wins and two ties. One of those wins was against our big rival the New York Red Bulls.

It was a long time since the Union had beaten New York. It was a great game and we beat them, 3-0. I was very happy after this game, of course because of the win but also because I provided the assist on the last goal by Antoine Hoppenot. Antoine sits next to me in the locker room and is a personal friend of mine.  

To see him score his first home goal and be able to give him the assist was fantastic.

This season did not always go the way we wanted, and between the middle of August to the middle of September our results were not the best and we didn't get lots of points. For the first time we lost two games in a row, first in San Jose and the following weekend at home against Houston. Those unfortunate results put us in a bad position and out of the playoffs position.

After the Houston game, the team had a weekend off to recharge our batteries and start the push to finish strong in these last games of the regular season.

And the first of those five games was away in Kansas City. Since our last two bad performances, nobody pictured us winning this game. But all of us in the team knew that we were capable of beating Kansas City on their home field. If we wanted to be a part of the playoffs we needed a positive result here. And that's what we did. We won 1-0. This result put us in the playoff but it is not over yet. There is still a long way to go.

This next home game against Toronto is huge. And after that we are going to D.C. United and Montreal and then the rubber match as it's called at PPL Park on Oct. 26 against Kansas City -- again.

We are going all your support for this final sprint to the playoffs. I know I want to make it and say I helped the Philadelphia Union qualify for the second time.

Talk to you all soon...hopefully at playoff time.

Merci Beaucoup

Sebastien Le Toux, No. 11

24 September 8:19 am

Coming off a home win against D.C. United, we traveled to New York. It is our last meeting with the Red Bulls in the regular season and we needed a great performance against a direct opponent for the playoffs. I thought we had one of our best collective performances on defense against one of the best teams in the league. The final score was 0-0. I had a good opportunity in the second half. I received a loose ball in the air, took a good first touch on top of the box and shot from distance. The ball smashed the crossbar but didn't go in. It was our best chance but unfortunately we share the points at the end.

The next weekend we were again on the road. This time we played in New England. We played a very poor first half and New England was in leading, 1-0. We attacked much stronger the second half and quickly tied the game with a goal from Danny Cruz. This goal gave us more energy to continue to attack and after a shot from Sheanon Williams who hit the post, the ball came back right at my shin and I scored. Unfortunately, I was called offside by a foot. After my goal was called back, Conor Casey scored another one. He got to a loose ball in the box after the goalkeeper and their defender collided and found the net. Surprisingly the referee whistled for a foul on the goalkeeper and didn't allow the goal, which in my opinion was totally a good goal.

This wrong call was the turning point of this game and New England took advantage of our team frustration to score few goals. Final score 5-1, this was our worst result of the season.

Back home against Montreal. It's our second meeting versus the Impact. We lost the first 5-3 earlier in the season so everybody was hoping for lots of goals. But the opposite happened, and the game ended 0-0. We had some good combinations offensively but didn't find the net. The highlight of this game for me, was when the Montreal defender, Hassoun Camara, elbowed me in the face 10 minutes into the game. It is the first time that this happen to me, and I was close to getting a concussion, but luckily for me just my jaw and teeth were touched. I remained in the game but felt sore for few days.

Next game was our last long road trip to the west coast in San Jose. It's never easy to play far away from home with three hours difference but we needed to get points here. We didn't get off to the best start and the Earthquakes took the lead early, courtesy of former Union player Shea Salinas. We didn't have much opportunity in the first half but came back more offensive in the second half. Shortly after the half, San Jose midfielder Baca received a red card for a hard tackle. This call helped us to get more opportunities to score but the woodwork was not our friend this game. Twice we hit the post, first with an effort by Keon Daniel and after a header from Sheanon Williams. San Jose stayed strong defensively and we could not score and lost this game.

This was a disappointing result and we needed a big response at home against Houston Dynamo.

We played a very good first half, answering the physical plays form Houston who decided to make this game ugly. But in the first half we should have been up, 1-0. Keon Daniel took a fantastic free kick which went straight into the net, but the referee deemed there to have been a foul on the Houston goalkeeper. It's not the first time this season that we had a goal called back and it changed this game again. Houston scored a header in the second half, off of a free kick. We were unable to respond and lost this very important game.

We are not in the best position right now, tied for sixth in the Eastern Conference. Everything is still possible, but we need a big reaction in the final five games of the regular season to make the playoffs.

I hope I will give you some great news in my next blog.

Thanks for following me and supporting the team.

Merci beaucoup !!

Sebastien Le Toux No. 11

02 July 2:40 pm

After a heavy loss against the defending champion Los Angeles Galaxy, 4-1, we needed a quick turnaround at home against Chicago Fire.  Three minutes into the game, I took a corner kick, the ball got back to me and on my first touch I crossed it back in the box.  Jack Mc headed it in the goal and we led 1-0 early in the game and it was the final result. This was my fourth assist of the year. It felt good to get a win at home and have a clean sheet before having to road trip in Canada. First stop was at the Eastern conference leader Montreal.

This game was crazy, we lost, 5-3. We made many mistakes in the game but we never gave up and tried to come back on the scoreboard. I scored my 2nd goal of this season, and it was the goal that brought us back to 4-3 and gave us some hope to tie the game in the last five minutes. It came from a Sheanon Williams long throw, as I was waiting on the top of the box. The ball came right at me on my chest, I brought it down on the ground with my right foot and quickly took a shot with my left foot before the defender could block me. I was very pleased with my goal because I did everything right in the execution technically. And it was a long time since my first goal in the opening game so it felt really good.

The week after we flew to Toronto, I don’t have much to say about this game. I played as a forward but it was a very frustrating game for me because I didn't touch the ball much and at the end I was not really happy with my performance and I think the team overall felt the same way. We tied the game 1–1 in the last minute on a goal by guess who? Jack Mc again. It was his 10th goal of the season. Now it was time to come back home and host the Columbus Crew.

We were very motivated to get three points for the game before having a little break. We played an amazing first half with three goals and that ended up being the final score, 3-0. We definitely needed a win like that at home for our fans and for our confidence. It showed us that our team is capable of that type of performance. In this game I got credited for two assists. The first one came from one of my corner kicks and Sheanon Williams scored his first goal of the season with an acrobatic finish.

The second began with great pressure from our forwards, I anticipated the pass to the left back and stole the ball from him. I pushed forward with the ball, entered the box on the right side and saw Conor Casey making a run into the first post. He did a great finish with a diving header. I started this game as a right midfielder and I think that I played my best game of the season so far and I hope there are more to come. 
 

Thank you for your support, I'll talk to you soon.
 

Merci beaucoup!!!

Sébastien Le Toux, No. 11