UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The Luke Rodgers saga is over at Red Bull Arena and the Sébastien Le Toux era is about to begin.
New York acquired Le Toux from the Vancouver Whitecaps late on Friday in a surprise trade that signals the end of the Red Bulls’ prolonged pursuit for Rodgers.
“We have agreed with Luke that we will not wait,” Backe told a pair of reporters on Saturday morning. “We’ve been waiting and working for almost seven months now, and still no breakthrough. That means definitely that we needed to get a striker in and with the possibility you have to give up something to get something.”
What the Red Bulls had to give up in order to acquire the 28-year-old LeToux was allocation money and Dane Richards, the longest-tenured player on New York’s team prior to the deal.
Richards, who has played solely for the Red Bulls since beginning his career in 2007, had endured a subpar first half of the season. He scored just once, had two assists and picked up seven yellow cards in a year that was full of ineffective stretches of play.
That was not the main reason the Red Bulls shipped him out, though.
“I really liked Dane and I can’t be 100 percent sure, but I’m quite sure that he when his contract expires in December, that he would have left us for Europe for trials or whatever it is,” said Backe. “And when we get the opportunity to do this trade we had to do it with Luke out. I felt a little bit sorry for Dane, but this is part of the game.”
Backe would not reveal how Richards took the news of being traded, but he did have high praise for his new striker. Aside from adding competition to a front line that had been dangerously thin in recent weeks, Le Toux brings a work rate that the Red Bulls coach seems to love.
“Pacey, pacey like hell, nonstop runner, 90 minutes, will always be a threat in behind whenever we play,” said Backe. “Decent record scoring-wise, assists, so that’s what he brings.”
Admittedly a fan of Thierry Henry growing up, the French-born Le Toux is likely to be thrown into the fire immediately with his new teammates. He trained fully on Saturday morning, a mere few hours after arriving from Chicago (where Vancouver currently are in preparations for their match against the Chicago Fire), took reps with the first team and is already hearing jokes about how he looks like fellow striker Kenny Cooper.
Le Toux is no stranger to being dealt, however. He was traded earlier in the year from the Philadelphia Union to the Whitecaps and while he admits he is eager to get going with the Red Bulls, the move came as a bit of a shock to him.
“I was very excited, of course, to come here because I know it’s a great team and a great club,” said Le Toux. “I was very happy that the coach here and the coaching staff want me to play forward because I played more as a right midfielder in Vancouver, which I can do here, too. But I know they want me more as a forward here so it’s a great feeling to know and to come here, so I was very excited for that.”
“To leave a team when you’ve been there six months, it’s hard to leave like that. I was at practice with them in the morning and leaving like that, it’s not sad but just surprising. But I had a great season over there and I’m looking forward now to a great next six months in New York and try to win something here.”
Le Toux will have a big chance to make a great first impression to Red Bulls fans, as the club has three home games during the next seven days. Two of those matches will be against Le Toux’s former teams, starting with the Seattle Sounders on Sunday and the Union next Saturday.
“I’m glad I don’t play against Vancouver in the middle of the week,” joked Le Toux. “It’s good talk for [media] and nice to write, but at the end when I’m on the field I’m just thinking of winning for my team."
As for what number Le Toux will wear with his new team? No. 9.
Yes, Luke Rodgers’ locker can finally be cleared out.