Call it an early Christmas present.
Sebastien Le Toux was shopping for presents, trying to stay ahead of the curve with Dec. 25 inching ahead on the calendar.
Then the phone rang and it was his agent, Stefani Miglioranzi, ironically, an ex-Union midfielder-now-turned-agent.
The news was like receiving a gargantuan Christmas present with a bow wrapped on top.
“I was doing Christmas shopping and I’m going back to France for the holiday to visit my family,” Le Toux said at a press conference Friday morning at PPL Park. “It’s important for me to see them once a year and I got a call from Stefani who told me the deal was done and I have nothing to worry about now. I will be with Philadelphia next year.”
How big was that phone call?
“It’s a fantastic day for me,” Le Toux said. “I’m very, very happy. I was happy to hear yesterday that I’m back in Philadelphia to play for the Union. … It’s a big reason why I’m back here because I appreciate the work they put in with me. I know who they are and I really love to work with them and be able to be back and be able to work with this team.
“I’m really proud to wear this color and wear this jersey and play for them. A very big thank you for them because if they were not here, I don’t think I would be back here.”
The Union acquired Le Toux from the New York Red Bulls that sent allocation money and Costa Rican forward Josue Martinez to the Red Bulls. The 28-year-old forward was traded to Vancouver last season and then traded again to New York.
After the Frechman left, he wasn’t sure if he ever would be back. He hoped and wondered. But he was never sure.
The Union always kept the door ajar following the trade. Recently, the door opened wide enough for the club to not only reacquire its leading goal scorer, but also its heart and soul.
“This year was a very tough year for us and we learned a lot,” said Union CEO & Operating Partner Nick Sakiewicz. “I certainly learned a lot in this transition year. After (team manager) John (Hackworth) took over, things stabilized quite a bit and we started playing good football again. Butut we were still missing a few pieces and we always knew in our hearts that Sebastien is a Union player. It was hard for us to watch him play in Vancouver and it was really hard for us to watch him play in New York.
“We’re just delighted to welcome him back … I wanted to let the fans know that we heard them loud and clear when Sebastien left. We really strategized and thought real hard and listened a lot to what our fans wanted to see here in Philadelphia, the type of soccer they wanted to see here on the pitch and the type of players they wanted on this organization. I want to congratulate our fans for getting one of their most favorite players back.”
Le Toux was originally acquired by the Union as the fourth overall pick from Seattle Sounders FC in the 2009 MLS Expansion Draft. In his two seasons in Philadelphia, he led Philadelphia in goals in back-to-back seasons.
In 62 total appearances (28 in 2010, 34 in 2011), he is the Union’s all-time leading goal scorer with 25 goals and 20 assists, and is the only player to score a playoff goal in the first leg of the ‘11 Eastern Conference semifinals against Houston.
In addition, Le Toux earned MLS’ Individual Fair Play award in consecutive seasons, going three straight years without a card.
Statistics aside, Le Toux is dynamic as a leader on the pitch and in the locker room. Both of those things will be stabilized next season with Le Toux back in the mix.
“It was after that (coaching) change (in June) that I realized we needed a player that Seba brought to the game that allowed us to spread the game out north to south,” Sakiewicz said. “We’re pretty good at it east to west, sideline to sideline, but we didn’t have that player. … In August, September, we started saying how much we missed Sebastien the player. I would say from the beginning, we missed Sebastien as a person because he’s very unique in a great way, his work in the community, his work with the fans, his connectivity with the fans off the field, we missed from day one.
“So we missed him in different ways. On the field, it took a little bit of time to realize we missed his ability to stretch the field north and south. Off the field, we missed him in a big way and I learned a lot.”
So did Hackworth.
As the talks heated up in recent days and eventually got completed, Hackworth and his staff celebrated. Le Toux was the perfect player to bring back.
“From a coaching staff, we’re just excited to have Seba back,” Hackworth said. “He was a huge part of this club the first two years and we missed him last year. I’ve said it to everybody that we needed to have a goal scorer back and we got our leading goal scorer in the history of our club back.”
It took a circuitous route from Philadelphia to Vancouver to New York and back to Philadelphia. The journey landed Le Toux back with the Union, and he couldn’t be happier.
What a perfect Christmas present.
“I think I’m meant to be here,” Le Toux said, smiling. “It’s the city I love to be in. I’m just glad to be here.”
Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Andy on Twitter @andyjasner