French Connection: Philadelphia Union's Sebastien Le Toux hunts starting spot with Vincent Nogueira
Now he hopes to start beside him in the midfield.
With Nogueira pretty much locked into a starting spot along with fellow newcomers Maurice Edu and Cristian Maidana as well as captain Brian Carroll, Le Toux is currently battling with Danny Cruz to be the team’s right winger in their favored 4-3-3 formation.
“Specifically for those two guys, yes there’s certainly a competition right now,” Union manager John Hackworth said in a media conference call Thursday. “But they’re not the only two we’re looking at for that spot. That’s a spot we feel like we have real good depth at. And at the same time, no one has solidified that spot right now.”
Given the fact that he led the team with 12 assists last year after scoring 25 goals during the franchise’s first two seasons from 2010 to 2011, Le Toux’s spot on the field might seem more secure heading into the 2014 campaign.
But the Frenchman is coming off a right foot injury that derailed the final two months of the 2013 season. Dealing with plantar fasciitis for the first time in his life, the 30-year-old didn’t have any assists during the final 10 games and played just 90 total minutes over the last five games as the Union faded out of playoff contention.
“It was very frustrating when you are injured and you can’t help the team,” Le Toux said.
But throughout the first few weeks of the preseason, Le Toux said he’s feeling 100 percent and is excited to possibly renew the chemistry he had last season with fullback Sheanon Williams on the right side of the field.
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“It’s so much better,” Le Toux said of the injury. “I can run free compared to the last month of the season. I hope it’s an old story. Since I came back, I haven’t felt anything. It’s been good news for me.”
Besides resting and recovering, Le Toux helped the Union in other ways during the offseason. When the Union first began thinking about signing Nogueira (pictured at right), they asked Le Toux to speak with the Sochaux captain.
“I talked to him even before he decided to sign here,” said Le Toux, who came to the US from France seven years ago and has since enjoyed an impressive five-year career in MLS. “He was asking me questions about the team and the city. And I was trying to tell him all of the good things about living in America and playing in MLS.”
Like Le Toux, Nogueira decided to make a big change and come to the United States. And Le Toux is now trying to help with his transition, sometimes even serving as his unofficial translator.
More importantly, Le Toux hopes to start alongside him and build Philly’s very own French Connection.
“I hope it can be a good thing for us,” Le Toux said. “Maybe since we are from the same country, we would have more chemistry. We would be happy to play together on the field.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.