CHESTER, Pa. – Never mind the March Madness office pools.
The best bet this month would have been to predict a goal from Sébastien Le Toux on Saturday.
Le Toux came into the Philadelphia Union’s home opener riding an impressive streak of scoring in home openers – one that he continued when he netted the only goal in Philly’s 1-0 win over the New England Revolution at PPL Park.
“If I wanted to gamble, I would put money on Seba scoring in the home opener,” teammate Amobi Okugo told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s great that he made the difference in our win.”
Okugo was on the team four years ago when Le Toux began his run of good form in home openers in memorable fashion, as he recorded a hat trick in the Union’s first-ever game in Philadelphia, played at Lincoln Financial Field.
Less than three months later, the Frenchman had a goal and two assists in the first game ever played at PPL Park.
Le Toux followed that up with an assist in the Union’s first home game of 2011 and, after being traded to the Whitecaps, a goal in Vancouver’s first home game of 2012.
Since returning to the Union before the start of the 2013 season, he’s scored in each of Philly’s last two home openers. Remarkably, he even had a goal in his first game at Red Bull Arena during his brief stint playing with New York toward the end of the 2012 season.
Le Toux said he isn’t sure why he does so well in home openers. But perhaps it has something to do with how excited he always gets to return to PPL Park after a long offseason.
“It was hard to fall asleep last night,” Le Toux said after Saturday’s win. “We knew we would have a full house. … You wake up, you eat breakfast, you’ve got a 4 pm game and you know you’re going to have a great turnout. It’s always an awesome thing to be on the field and be able to start the home opener.”
The key now for Le Toux is to be able to keep the goals coming throughout the season. After scoring in last year's home opener, he didn’t find the back of the net again at PPL Park for the rest of the season, finishing with just three total goals.
But considering Le Toux scored 25 combined goals during his first two seasons in Philadelphia, his teammates believe the popular Frenchman can regain his scoring touch in 2014 – especially in front of his adoring home fans.
“Him and the fans have a great relationship,” Okugo said. “Every home opener, he gives the fans what they want. We’re proud of him because he’s a fan favorite and a club icon.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.