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.