When Philadelphia Union began their inaugural campaign in March, it was difficult to predict who would generate the majority of the offensive firepower.
Alejandro Moreno was the club’s most proven striker, but he had only scored four goals in 2009. Fred was the most established attacking option in the midfield, but he hadn’t surpassed two goals or four assists in either of the previous two seasons. Danny Mwanga clearly had the potential to be a force after the Union selected him with the first pick in the MLS SuperDraft, but expectations were understandably tempered in 2010.
Enter Sebastien Le Toux.
Perhaps his hat trick in the club’s first official preseason game against the University of North Carolina should’ve been taken as a stronger sign. To be fair, though, no one could’ve expected what was in store for the expansion draft selectee. In Le Toux’s only other season in MLS, the Frenchman has notched just a goal and three assists in 15 starts.
14 goals and 11 assists later -- good for the highest combined mark in Major League Soccer this season -- Le Toux is an all-star starter, MVP candidate, and the heart and soul of a franchise that shed the expansion tag once and for all with a 3-1 loss at Columbus on Sunday.
Chris Wondolowski edged Edson Buddle for the much-hyped Budweiser Golden Boot award, an incredible accomplishment for a player who had four career goals prior to 2010. But where’s the fanfare for most overall productivity?
Not only did Le Toux beat out an A-list of MLS superstars to become the most prolific offensive player in the league, but he did so in record-breaking fashion. The previous MLS record for a single player’s percentage involvement in his club’s goal was 61.1 percent, set in 1999 when current Real Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis accumulated 18 goals and 15 assists out of 54 total goals. The record now belongs to Le Toux, and his 71.4 percent won’t be an easy mark to break.
[inline_node:287861]Who was on Le Toux’s heels for combined production this season? Landon Donovan was closest, finishing with seven goals and 16 assists. David Ferreira racked up eight goals and 13 assists. Fredy Montero was the only other player to finish with double-digit goals and assists, with 10 of each. Wondolowski, Buddle and Conor Casey all finished with 19 combined goals and assists, while Dwayne De Rosario accumulated 18.
In a way, it’s apropos that no one could keep up with Le Toux, who absolutely never stops running until the final whistle blows. The Frenchman’s total matches Jeff Cunningham’s 2009 output of 25 combined goals and assists.
So what was the difference between last season with Seattle and this season with Philadelphia? Aside from an obvious playing time discrepancy -- Le Toux finished with 2,520 minutes in 2010 compared to 1,457 in 2009 -- Manager Peter Nowak granted him increased freedom to roam around in search of goal scoring opportunities, enabling Le Toux’s talent to blossom.
“I just was more confident with my teammates,” Le Toux told Union fans in a recent live chat on philadelphiaunion.com. “They gave me lots of confidence and the coaching staff (did too). I played more of the position I like as a forward here and I start to score goals after the second game with a hat trick. After that I just continue to surf on this wave.”
Le Toux didn’t ride just any wave in 2010. He carved up a record-breaking tsunami.