Le Toux's return to Philly fails to live up to pregame hype

Vancouver's Sebastien Le Toux battles Philadelphia's Porfilio Lopez

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of Philadelphia Union

CHESTER, Pa. – In the end, there was no confetti and no parade. There didn’t appear to be any trash talk or bad blood. There weren’t even any goals.

What was billed as a highly anticipated showdown between Vancouver Whitecaps striker Sébastien Le Toux and his former Philadelphia Union teammates didn’t exactly live up to the pregame hype, as the two squads played to a scoreless draw at PPL Park on Saturday.

“I think there was a lot of hoopla leading up to the game but once the game got underway, Union fans were cheering for the Union,” Philadelphia captain Danny Califf said. “Certainly nobody wants to see Sébastien do poor or anything like that. Everyone wishes him the best. But at the same time when you step across the line, nobody’s your friend.”

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As soon as the Union traded Le Toux in the offseason, many people circled Saturday’s game on the calendar as one to watch, especially after Le Toux publicly bristled at his treatment by Philly management following the deal. Union manager Peter Nowak’s sarcastic remarks midweek about Philly throwing a parade for the Frenchman’s return only seemed to fuel the fire, but there wasn’t any kind of controversy to speak off at PPL on Saturday.

The Union fans cheered for Le Toux, the franchise’s leading scorer, before the game began and also treated ex-Union players Jordan Harvey and Brad Knighton kindly at first. So did the Philly players.

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“I said hi to all of those guys,” Union defender Sheanon Williams said. “We were good friends when they were here, but they’re not here anymore, so we have to concentrate on the guys in this locker room. You say hi, you wish them the best of the luck and then you send them back to Vancouver.”

For Califf, it was fun catching up with Le Toux – the only player who played more minutes than the veteran center back during the Union’s first two seasons – and especially Harvey.

“I spoke with both of them when they got in,” Califf said. “It was just kind of more to catch up. I hadn’t spoken to Sébastien much; I spoke to Jordan a lot more often. He was my roommate here and my best friend on the team, so we continued that relationship.

“It was great to see them out there today. Relationships like that make this job cool.”

Harvey played a full 90 minutes on the backline for the Whitecaps and Le Toux had a couple of good scoring chances, none better than a golden opportunity in the 83rd minute when his wide-open shot went just high.

What did Califf think about that part of the Le Toux-PPL Park reunion?

“I thought he was offside,” the Union captain said with a smile. “But I think [goalkeeper Zac MacMath] did a great job of closing down the angle quickly and making it difficult on him.”

Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.