The combination of playing at PPL Park for the first time and facing his former team made Sebastien Le Toux nearly unstoppable on Sunday. Le Toux dominated in front of an overflow crowd of 18,755, blasting an unsaveable penalty kick into the top corner to tie the match and then assisting on both of Philadelphia’s other goals.
Sunday was far from an anomaly, as Le Toux has emerged into a dominant offensive force in his first season as a full-time starter after being left exposed in the Expansion Draft by, you guessed it, the Seattle Sounders.
Le Toux leads the Philadelphia Union with six goals and is tied with Alejandro Moreno for most assists (five). The versatile attacker’s 11 combined goals and assists in just 9 matches outpace even U.S. National Team and LA Galaxy star Landon Donovan, who has 10 in the same number of matches. In fact, only Edson Buddle and Dwayne De Rosario have matched the prolific Union scorer, each with 11 themselves.
Throw in a tireless work ethic, team-first attitude and invaluable versatility and it's clear that Philadelphia have uncovered a hidden gem.
It’s not like Le Toux was ineffective or unknown for Seattle last year after becoming their first ever signing. In fact, the Frenchman quickly became a fan favorite for his contagious style of play. But his offensive ceiling wasn’t exploited the way manager Peter Nowak has this season, and Le Toux has responded to the increased responsibility better than anyone could’ve expected. Sunday was a perfect example.
“(Le Toux) had it going today,” said rookie Danny Mwanga about his teammate.
Indeed he did.
"Sebastien was the difference today for them," Sounders keeper Kasey Keller said after the loss. "He showed the tremendous amount of work rate he has. He stepped up and scored a tremendous penalty."
It’s not easy to exert maximum energy for 90 minutes, especially in extreme conditions like those that reached heat index levels of 106 degrees on the field.
"He's a guy who loves to run," Seattle forward Steve Zakuani said. "We expect that out of him. Going into the game, we knew he was going to do it. And he came out and did it."
Apparently he loves to find the back of the net as well.
Mwanga, who has emerged as an offensive force in his own right with four goals in only three starts as a rookie, had a feeling Le Toux was just getting started when asked two weeks ago.
“I think Sebastien is going to score more goals,” he said. “We’re getting more chances and learning how to take advantage.”
Where Le Toux lines up at the opening whistle doesn’t appear to impact his production. After starting as a forward in his first seven matches, Le Toux has dropped back to an attacking midfield role in his last two to make room for the emerging Mwanga.
“(Nowak) wanted me to play this position this week and we tried to put that in place. On Wednesday, I found it to be a bit of freedom when we played a friendly (against affiliate club Reading United). I can make deeper runs from the midfield and I can get back on defense.”
Le Toux’s contribution to Sunday’s win further proved that he’ll remain a focal point of Philadelphia's attack wherever he plays. He couldn’t have been much better against Seattle.
“It was very nice for me, (and I was) just thinking of doing the best I can on the field,” Le Toux said about his performance. “There is lots of ambition because of the new stadium and all of the people who were crazy today behind us. It’s great as a player and I will have great memories about that.”
So will the hometown fans who witnessed a historic moment and a star continuing to blossom at PPL Park.