CHESTER, Pa. – Union manager Peter Nowak had a simple explanation for why his star striker is playing so well recently: "He joined the Twitter."
While Nowak was joking about the reasoning for Sebastien Le Toux's scoring revival, the turnaround has truly been remarkable.
Le Toux’s first 22 games: one goal. His last eight games: nine goals. Le Toux has also added eight assists on the year.
The Union star continued his torrid streak on Thursday night, burning DC United for two early goals en route to a critical 3-2 home win.
The Frenchman didn’t speak to the media after the game, but he wasn’t blowing anyone off. He had already showered and headed out to Duffer’s Mill, a sports bar in Marcus Hook, to celebrate the victory with fans as part of a Budweiser promotion.
“I think once he started to score goals he broke that [mental] barrier,” said Veljko Paunovic, who sits right next to Le Toux in the locker room. “He was maybe struggling during the year, but he’s more relaxed now. He’s enjoying the game. He’s enjoying everything around the team and the locker room. He’s a very funny guy, a very nice guy. He brings a lot of positive energy.”
Le Toux put the Union on top just four minutes into the game. Carlos Valdes played a seemingly innocuous long ball, but after it was misjudged by Ethan White and bounced into the path of Le Toux, Philadelphia had their opening goal.
The second goal came just eleven minutes later. After Paunovic was able to knock down Zac MacMath’s goal kick, the ball fell to Michael Farfan, who curled a beautiful left-footed cross over the head of Brandon McDonald. Le Toux expertly chested the ball down and again fired into the back of the net.
“It’s just his movement off the ball,” said Amobi Okugo, describing what makes his teammate so effective in open space. “It’s hard to keep track of a player that’s constantly moving and putting himself in defenders' blind spots. It’s good for him that he’s starting to score now. It’s just his movement off the ball, consistent effort, and the balls being played in to him.”
Le Toux now has 10 goals and eight assists on the season, placing him into contention for the MLS MVP award. Only Dwayne De Rosario has more combined goals and assists in 2011.
The Frenchman has scored three braces this year and is 4-4 on penalty kicks while playing every single minute of every single game. In addition to the goals and assists, Le Toux's intangibles have never been doubted, even when he wasn't scoring.
“I think it was a confidence thing,” said Union captain Danny Califf. “You saw at the beginning of the season, when things don’t go your way straight away, especially coming off a year where there are a lot of expectations placed on you. When you’re not able to fulfill those expectations for game one, game two, game three, and it stretches into half the season, then there’s a [feeling of] "it’s not just a monkey, it’s like four gorillas on your back, you know what I mean?”
Not only has Le Toux lifted those proverbial gorillas off of his back, he's put his team in prime position to clinch their first-ever playoff berth. Thursday’s win moved the Union to 43 points and second place in the East with four games left, one more than the three closest teams in the standings.
“He’s done a fantastic job of finishing good goals," Califf added. "I think the first-time shot off the Justin Mapp pass [against Real Salt Lake] was his best goal and he hasn’t looked back since then. He’s going to be really important going forward for us, for the success of our team. We obviously need other guys to step up and score goals, but he’s the guy that we need to continue to produce.”