In scoring an impressive hat trick against D.C. United on Saturday, Sébastian Le Toux helped the Philadelphia Union get over some major humps.
His goals were the team’s first tallies and led to their first-ever win. And in doing so, he helped soothe the wounds suffered by team manager Peter Nowak earlier in the day when Poland’s president was killed in a plane crash.
Waiting for nearly 30 years to have soccer back in Philadelphia, the fans at Lincoln Financial Field exploded when Le Toux opened the scoring in the fourth minute. The French striker was very impressed with the support shown by the crowd from start to finish.
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“It was marvelous tonight,” said Le Toux at the postgame press conference. “I feel the same things I was feeling in my first game in Seattle. The crowd was wonderful behind us for the 90 minutes. It’s important as a player to feel that. Even when we dropped to 2-2, they were still behind us.”
Union assistant John Hackworth ran the match from the field as Peter Nowak was grieving the tragic plane crash in western Russia that killed Polish president Lech Kaczynski and some of Nowak’s close friends earlier in the day. Despite being away from the team, Nowak remained in close contact with his assistant.
“Today was a very sad day for Peter,” said Hackworth. “My heart goes out to him. For his culture, he wanted to make sure he paid his respects the right way.”
Still, Hackworth said, the club was prepared for such an occasion and Hackworth was comfortable in the role of leading the team from the sidelines.
“This is something Peter and I have talked about for a long time,” Hackworth said. “Whether it’s me going upstairs and being the eye in the sky or him, we’re very comfortable with that ... and for the players, I don’t think they skipped a beat.”
Hackworth was also impressed by how enthusiastic the Philadelphia fans were. And despite having a keen eye on what was happening on the pitch, he reveled in the atmosphere.
“I remember after Seba scores his first goal, I’m walking back to the bench and think to myself, ‘Holy cow ... this place is rocking,’” Hackworth said of the support from most of the near-35,000 in attendance. “It was just awesome. What a wonderful atmosphere and what a great gift as this team was given to the city and it was a great way to start our franchise.”
Thanks to Le Toux, some great support, some timely defense and a fired-up crowd, things are looking up for the Union after their second-ever match. Hackworth said he was pleased with the team’s turnaround, especially given the circumstances.
“Overall, I think you see a team that has a lot of ability,” said Hackworth of the quality of his side. “We looked like we had a little more cohesiveness than maybe some people realized we had. In the end I feel like we had great resolve.”