CHESTER, Pa. – Peter Nowak does not want to talk about Sébastien Le Toux.
Asked a seemingly benign question during his weekly press conference about what he expects the atmosphere to be like for Le Toux’s return to PPL Park on Saturday, the Philadelphia Union manager asked if that was a serious question.
He then sarcastically said that Le Toux – the ex-Union standout who was traded to Vancouver for allocation money in the offseason – might be greeted with “maybe confetti, maybe a parade and banners” when the Whitecaps roll into town for Saturday’s game (4 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
“I have no idea what it’s going to be like,” Nowak said dismissively, “and I’m not worried about that whatsoever.”
While it makes sense Nowak would rather focus on his own players heading into a big game in which his 0-3 squad desperately needs a result, it’s clear the departure of Le Toux remains a sore spot.
Considering the star Frenchman was the club’s best player and a fan favorite for the last two years, many Union supporters were upset by the trade – a feeling that was only amplified when Le Toux publicly lashed out at Union management following the deal.
When asked if he’d reach out to Le Toux before or after the game, Nowak only said, “Why not? Of course.”
Some of the Union’s players added that they’ll be happy to greet Le Toux – as well as two other ex-teammates in Jordan Harvey and Brad Knighton – but that they won’t be thinking about that when the game begins.
“It will be good to see them and stuff,” Union striker Jack McInerney said. “Everyone is friends and we all like to hang out. But during the game, it’s all business. We’re just looking for three points. After the game, we can say hi, talk to them and hang out a bit.”
Interestingly enough, Le Toux, Harvey and Knighton were all Union originals that were selected by Philly in the 2009 expansion draft. The Union, meanwhile, no longer have any players from that expansion draft class and only five players overall from their opening-day 2010 roster – McInerney, Danny Mwanga, Amobi Okugo, Roger Torres and Danny Califf.
Like Le Toux, Harvey and Knighton were fan favorites during their time at PPL.
“I’m sure before or after [the game], we’ll reconvene,” Okugo said. “But once we get on the field, they’re enemies.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.