Nowak: Le Toux deal offers flexibility to solidify young core
It wasn’t a coincidence.
On the same day the Union traded forward Sebastien Le Toux to Vancouver Whitecaps FC for allocation money, the Union also exercised the option to retain the services of midfielder Roger Torres, completing a transfer from América de Cali.
The Union are expected to make additional player-related announcements in the coming days.
Not long after both of Tuesday's moves were made public, Union manager Peter Nowak addressed the media on a conference call to explain the club’s decisions.
“It’s all about the future, not about one player,” Nowak said. “The last two years, we’ve built a good foundation to express that for the future.”
One day earlier, goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón and the Union announced that they had mutually decided to part ways, allowing for Mondragón to return to his native Colombia and play for his first club, Deportivo Cali.
Then came the Le Toux news 24 hours later.
And then came the revelation about Torres, who had been on loan to the Union for the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
“We wanted to invest in the future,” said Nowak, who added the club is attempting to re-work standout defender Sheanon Williams’ contract. “We have a very good foundation with youth pieces here. We want to keep the group intact and we think this [decision] will make them even stronger. With our resources we have, we’ll reinvest in our youth.
"If you want to keep a sustainable, competitive advantage, then you have to create the room," Nowak added. "We don't have the NBA's luxury tax or salary cap, where you can blow the team out of proportion."
The 28-year-old Le Toux, who is entering the last year of a four-year deal with MLS, was selected by the Union in the 2009 MLS Expansion Draft from Seattle Sounders FC. He quickly became not only a productive player, but a hugely popular one with the fans, too.
Le Toux scored 25 goals and added 20 assists in two seasons. He was voted to the MLS Best XI and was named Philadelphia’s first-ever All-Star selection in '10. The Frenchman was also a back-to-back winner of the MLS Individual Fair Play Award.
When the games were over, after hustling for 90 minutes without fail, it would be common for Le Toux to sign autographs for well over an hour. It's all part of the reason he is so beloved by Union fans.
“There’s no easy trade or [anything easy] in letting players go,” Nowak said. “It’s not an easy part for any of us. We wanted to invest and reinvest in the players we believe will be with the team in the future.”
Le Toux wasted no time introducing himself to the Philadelphia fan base, scoring a hat trick in the Union’s first-ever home game, a 3-2 victory over D.C. United on April 10, 2010, at Lincoln Financial Field.
“He scored three goals in the first game and he was very recognized as an essential player with the franchise,” Nowak said. “It was no secret to anybody. The rest of the goals, the All-Star Game, he would represent our club in a very good way. … I think he was a good role model for the club and for others as well.”
The dynamic of the Union has changed for a second straight offseason, but the club has managed to keep it's core together other than Le Toux and Mondragón.
Exit Le Toux and Mondragón, enter the likes of national team players Gabriel Gómez, Porfirio Lopez and Josué Martinez, as well as first-round draft pick Chandler Hoffman, among others.
Not to mention Torres, who has become a fan favorite at PPL Park. In 46 appearances, including 19 starts, the 20-year-old Torres has scored three goals and registered eight assists in 1,889 minutes. All three of Torres' goals came in 2011, including his first MLS goal against the New York Red Bulls, in a 1-0 victory on April 9.
"I'm thrilled to remain in Philadelphia, where I've become comfortable with my teammates and the coaching staff," Torres said in a press release. "I love to play in front of our fans at PPL Park and will continue working hard so I can help the team reach its goals."
On the same day Le Toux was shipped to Vancouver for financial flexibility, Torres was secured.
And it wasn’t a coincidence.