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Why the Le Toux deal makes sense on the field and the books

Photo: Nicolae Stoian

Name one player under 30 who scored double-digit goals in two consecutive MLS seasons since 2010 and makes under $300,000 a year.

There’s only one: Sebastien Le Toux.

That’s the most significant reason why Philadelphia Union’s trade for Le Toux on Thursday makes sense. Not for sentimental reasons. Not for some metaphorical justice. Not even for the increase in attendance that Le Toux’s signing will likely produce. (Though these things matter.)

It’s because you simply can’t get a proven MLS scorer in his prime for that cheap. If you’re playing Moneyball, as nearly every MLS club is, then Le Toux is your guy.

Le Toux, 28, has regularly scored when deployed at forward, as explained here. His contract expired this year, but he is renewing with MLS for a salary expected to be around $250,000. The Union need a veteran forward who has proven he can score in MLS and be a good presence in the locker room. And they gave up very little to get him, as Josue Martinez wasn’t in Union manager John Hackworth’s plans, and the allocation money was probably a wash from Le Toux’s departure to Vancouver. It’s really that simple.

The big question has been how Le Toux would pair with Union striker Jack McInerney, whose name should already be penciled in as an Opening Day starter. McInerney stands just 5-10, and with Le Toux offering very little in terms of aerial ability, the common wisdom has been that the Union need a tall target striker. Hackworth has clearly refuted that, and there’s some justification to the thinking.

First, McInerney may not be tall, but he proved this year he can score with his head. Second, he’s not particularly fast, and he doesn’t stretch the field like Le Toux does. Third, McInerney showed surprising adeptness at playing hold-up this year, despite his size.

So while this isn’t the pairing you would design if you were starting from scratch, it could work out nicely. The two could fit together well in a two-forward set, with Le Toux’s diagonal runs nicely complimenting McInerney’s ability to find and create space. The Union still lack a tall aerial presence up top, but to completely dismiss McInerney’s aerial skills would be an overreach.

As for Le Toux, he shouldn’t need, try or be expected to carry the Union on his back like he did in 2010. He doesn’t have to score or assist on every goal. A 12-goal season and an improved overall team should be considered a success, provided McInerney continues to flourish.

Only time will tell how it works out, of course. But for all the cynics out there, this deal looks good for the most unsentimental reasons possible.

So who’s next to return?

So does this mean Danny Califf is coming back too? What about Jordan Harvey, Danny Mwanga, Faryd Mondragon and other players Peter Nowak purged to make room for Diego Gutierrez’s ill-advised scouting finds this past offseason?

Well, since you asked — come on, you know you did! — here’s the book on each of them.

  • Danny Califf

We covered this Tuesday, but to broaden that, there will probably be competition for Califf. Don’t be surprised if the Galaxy try to acquire Califf as a replacement for Omar Gonzalez, who Bruce Arena acknowledged this week could leave for Europe this winter. Califf is from southern California and previously played for the Galaxy. D.C. United has seen plenty of Califf and could reach for the former University of Maryland player.

  • Jordan Harvey

Buried beneath the league’s best pair of starting fullbacks in Vancouver, Harvey was a solid but unspectacular starting left back for the Union whose departure left a gap the Union are still trying to fill. He started 18 games this year, including Vancouver’s final seven, and showed surprising flexibility by deputizing at defensive midfielder. If Hackworth wants an attacking wingback at left back next year, then Harvey is not your guy. But if Hackworth wants a reliable stay-at-home defender there to balance the marauding runs coming from the right flanks, then who knows? While Vancouver exercised the option on his contract on Monday, stranger things have happened.

  • Danny Mwanga

Mwanga lived in Portland after immigrating from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and his salary is too high. He is better off staying in Portland.

  • Faryd Mondragon

Not happening. Mondragon can still play, but uprooting him from his home country at age 41 to return to a city in which he spent one season just isn’t going to happen.

5 Comments

  1. Yeah it can totally work here with those two up top. No more aimless long balls, that’s for sure. Both are capable of finding space and with Okugo going back to midfield (hello Parke), we’ll actually have a DM who is capable of playing pinpoint balls into space.
    And thats in addition to the usually crafty passing of MArfan and Adu (if he still stays here).

  2. Is it true we also just got Parke? *waiting patiently*

  3. Don’t forget that when we first started seeing Marfan’s creative talents explode in 2011 was about the same time as Seba started scoring goals that year.

  4. So happy for many reasons! I agree that Seba might not be the solution to win us a cup, but I know one thing…he’ll try. While he wouldn’t be scoring a ton of goals and may not prefer it, I wonder what you all think about putting him on the flank? If we did go after a big, aerial-threat forward, Seba could play and attacking winger, similar to what Dempsey has done and play “clean-up hitter” so to speak. He certainly has the engine to track back defensively and his constant movement would be a nightmare for the opposition. Just a thought. What do you think?

  5. It’s not just his scoring potential that is important. He brings something else than what Mcinerney and Hoppenot do. They all have speed, but Le Toux has an engine AND the gas tank to go with it. He never stops moving, whether it’s making runs off the ball or harassing the other team when they have the ball. His pressure and backtracking ability forces opposing goalkeepers and defenders into making plays before they’re ready and ones they’re not completely comfortable with. Half of the highlights from his years here began with other players making interceptions and takeways because the other team was forced into making a play they weren’t ready for. Jack and Antoine have the potential to do that now, but not at 110% for a full 90 minutes or with the ability to switch immediately back into offense that Le Toux does. The more you can be a pest to the other team, the more likely they’ll waste their opportunities.

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