Right now, he’s playing coy, but you can tell it’s a big deal for Sebastien Le Toux.
In a few days, the Union will compete for the right to be the 2014 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup champion and in the mix will be its star midfielder-forward.
Since making a recovery from a back injury that hampered the early part of this season, Le Toux has been on a tear acting as a dual catalyst in the Union’s remarkable run back into the playoff picture, but in the immediate putting the team on the brink of its first trophy in the club’s short history.
For Le Toux, it’s the feeling that he is at the top of his game physically that has made him produce the kind of numbers that has to put him in contention for Major League Soccer’s Best XI come season’s end.
“You kind of have to make sure you feel 100 percent and give everything on the field,” Le Toux said following a recent training session. “You [always] hope for the best and I hope to continue to get some success. This [Open Cup] competition is getting closer and closer; but between now and the final, we have [an MLS regular season match at home against] New York first so we try to think about New York (3 p.m., purchase tickets). But, I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I didn’t say that it’s a final and it’s in our head. It’s the first for this franchise and we hope to get the first trophy.”
To do so, the Union will have to bypass Seattle, a team that Le Toux has fond memories of. He should; after all, he did help Seattle win one of its three Open Cup titles. Le Toux has been nothing short of a beast in this tournament, holding the all-time lead in scoring in the modern era (1995-present) with 14 goals. Many of those he scored while wearing Sounders green.
But Le Toux isn’t thinking fondly of his old team as much as the fond memories of what it feels like to win the oldest soccer competition in America – a tournament heading into its 101st year.
“It’d be a little special because it’s my old team,” said Le Toux. “But, at the end, we are looking to win the first trophy and as a competitor, that is what I want the most. It doesn’t matter or not if it’s [Seattle] or another team. Seattle is a very good team, maybe the best in the league right now, so we know we have to play our best game. I just hope we can get the support from the fans and win the first trophy.”
Seattle has a red hot arsenal featuring players like Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey, Marco Pappa and Kenny Cooper. The latter in Cooper is the player Le Toux routinely finds himself compared to – but predominantly in terms of their similar facial attributes.
— Kerith Gabriel (@sprtswtr) August 14, 2014
Coincidentally, in addition to looking alike the two share similar success in this tournament with Le Toux and Cooper (13 goals) sitting a nice one-two in the USOC scoring race. Little know, that both Le Toux and Cooper share a great friendship and have been teammates on multiple occasions, the latest was Le Toux’ brief stint in New York during his journeyman 2012 season before returning to Philadelphia prior to the start of 2013.
“I’ve known him since my first time in America when I was in Dallas for tryouts,” said Le Toux, a native Frenchman. “He was there and we got the first comparisons as being twins and brothers. Hey, I think it’s funny and I don’t mind being compared to Kenny, he’s a good guy and he’s a very good player. I got to know him a bit better playing in New York and he’s [like a brother to me]. [In the Open Cup], I hope for him to have a good game – but not the best game of his life. If he doesn’t score, it means maybe we have more of a chance to win.”
Keeping Cooper quiet will definitely be on the collective mind of a Union team that has begun to strike fear in many of its opponents as of recent going on a tear not just in league play, but put forth an impressive performance to qualify for its first final.
It hasn’t just been a healthy Le Toux, but a winning formula spearheaded by interim manager Jim Curtin that has this Union corps playing like “men” down a crucial stretch of the season.
“It feels good to be doing so well at this point in the season,” Le Toux said. “I feel good physically. But it’s not just me. You can see on the field that some guys are finding their stride too, like Andrew [Wenger] and Conor [Casey]. We know we can count on each other for one of us to score every game.”
Le Toux added:
“Right now it’s working well. If it’s not me, I just hope it’s a team win. Usually it’s one of the three of us scoring a goal. So it’s great for the team and we’re confident we can score goals now.”
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Contact Union digital editor Kerith Gabriel at firstname.lastname@example.org