Philadelphia fans who are up in arms over the trade that sent Sebastien Le Toux to Vancouver are missing the big picture.
As if it wasn't easy enough to notice, the Union are managing their club very differently from every other side in the league. And it's the right way: building on youth.
It's not merely the obvious transfer fee opportunities that come with grooming quality young professionals. There will be handsome rewards in this department, no doubt.
But youth is the way to go in a league structured around a salary budget. The younger the player, typically the less onerous is the salary hit that accompanies him. Younger players are also more attractive trade bait when a team is ready to offload them.
And going young gives a team maximum flexibility in a league in which roster management skills are severely put to the test. A young squad allows a coach the luxury of time to make a more informed decision on which players are worth the long-term investment.
Union fans will see this happen with the commitment the club is set to make to 20-year-old Roger Torres and 21-year-old Sheanon Williams, who manager Peter Nowak wants to reward with a better contract. Williams and Torres earned it based on performance, not based on their resumé.
Yes, a 28-year-old Le Toux will score goals and run his heart out for the Vancouver Whitecaps. But the cash received in exchange for a player entering the final year of his contract will help further Philly's youth movement.
Sure, Union management could perhaps be a little more forthcoming in specifically addressing how the move impacts current contracts or future acquisitions. But fans can have faith that there is a plan the team is sticking to.
Keeping Le Toux would have been nice. But it would likely have meant Danny Mwanga and Jack McInerney riding the bench for yet another season. Wouldn't Union fans have been just as upset at that scenario?
Obviously this is not what Vancouver's lineup will actually look like in 2012 but with the addition of Sebastien Le Toux Vancouver suddenly become one of the most offensively-blessed sides in MLS. And think about this for a second: there are 3 more forwards on the roster and even rumors of Robert Earnshaw coming in to add to the embarrassment of attacking riches.
And as the image above illustrates, they are lacking a little something in the defensive end of the midfield.
Maybe I should I try to get the CBC on the phone because Survivor: B.C. Place would be a great reality show. If someone's going to get cut --and there will most certainly be cuts before First Kick-- you may as well televise it. My money is on a Francophone alliance between Le Toux, Hassli and Chiumiento.
The deal that brings Sebastien Le Toux to Vancouver appears to be done, if you're asking Le Toux. More details to come...
Just got traded to Vancouver !Saddest day for me in my Philadelphia Union story.... Still can't believe it
— Sebastien Le Toux (@SebastienLeToux) January 31, 2012
Tim Ream sealed his long-awaited move to Bolton this week, but it doesn't appear Sébastien Le Toux will be joining him.
A report from Sportinglife.com on Friday included a quote from Bolton boss Owen Coyle that made a transfer that was once considered likely to go through appear dead in the water.
"Sébastien came in for a couple of days, and to be fair to him he hadn't trained for four or five weeks," Coyle told Sporting Life. "He did fine and that's where it is. We'd have probably needed a longer look."
By the sounds of it, Le Toux won't get that look, which is probably a blessing in disguise for Union fans loathe to lose their talisman.
Le Toux has been one of, if not the most, productive strikers in MLS during the past two seasons, but it was always going to be a huge challenge for him to walk onto an EPL training field and show much of anything when he hadn't played for weeks, especially against players in the meat-and-potatoes portion of their season.
Has there been a more compelling storyline in 2012 than the intrigue surrounding the Philadelphia Union forward corps?
When Peter Novak drafted UCLA striker Chandler Hoffman in the SuperDraft a lot of people either scratched their heads or surmised that Danny Mwanga was on his way out of Chester. But then Sebastien Le Toux turns up on TV one morning seated next to Tim Ream behind the Bolton bench and just like that opinion shifts to Le Toux being the one with his bags packed.
But like any good drama, take HBO's A Game of Thrones for instance, there has to be a plot twist to keep it interesting, keep everyone on their toes. Today we received two of them: Bolton boss Owen Coyle signaling the end of his interest in Le Toux and news that Mwanga is off on what seems like an oddly-late training stint with Aston Villa.
I love the intrigue, I really do, but what's really going on in PA? Is it that Philadelphia is no longer big enough for the two of them? Is there a tactical switch on the horizon that requires some personnel shuffling? Maybe Novak is ready to throw Hoffman into the deep end?
I can't say what's going on in the heads of the Union technical staff but that shouldn't stop you from taking a guess at what they're thinking; let us know your thoughts on Philly's Game of Forwards in the comments below. I'll go get the popcorn, let me know if anyone gets the Ned Stark treatment while I'm away.
We've heard rumors of this in recent weeks, apparently it's true. Is this odd timing, considering the preseason is underway?
— Richard Motzkin (@RichardMotzkin) January 27, 2012
Did you watch the live broadcast of the 2012 All Star game press conference yesterday? Union CEO Nick Sakiewicz was absolutely beaming.
And why not? After all the guy did play a pivotal role in bringing soccer to Philly, even funding the first four months of the endeavor on his personal Amex card, so you'd expect that he'd be as happy as an unmarked forward in the 18 yd-box.
But what about the fans? How do the Philadelphia faithful feel about the league's summer showcase coming to town?
"It's going to be fantastic," says Liverpool native and Son of Ben Mark Jenkinson. "It's great that they're all starting to take place in purpose-built stadiums."
Now knowing where Jenkinson hails from you will be in no way shocked to learn who his choice of dream ASG opponent is.
"Obviously Liverpool," he offers with a laugh, "or any really top-tier club. I'd really like to see East v. West again though. It may not have the draw of playing against a Real Madrid but it's definitely in the spirit of what an All Star game is all about."
He's not alone in his desire to see Liverpool trade in the Mersey for the Delaware River.
"I'd love to see Liverpool, Barcelona of course. Pretty much anyone except Manchester United."
Those are the words of Union fan Kelly Christine Delaney who is something of an all-inclusive All Star game fan.
"I was at the NBA All-Star game when it was in Philadelphia, I was at the MLB All Star game when it was at Veteran's Stadium and I'll be at the NBA All Star game again this year," says Delaney. "It's fun. They always feel like a Harlem Globetrotters game, even the baseball one, because there's a lot of showboating and everyone is there to have a good time. At the end of the night I can go home without being upset whether we won or lost."