CHESTER, Pa. — When Thierry Henry signed with the New York Red Bulls back in July, the rest of Major League Soccer shuddered at the thought of having to defend the legendary French striker.
But at least one player had a different reaction: Sebastien Le Toux. Henry had long been one of Le Toux’s idols, and now he would have the chance to face his fellow countryman.
That chance will come on Saturday as the Red Bulls travel to PPL Park to take on the Philadelphia Union.
“It’s very exciting for me,” Le Toux said on Wednesday after training. “I’ve followed his career since I was much younger in France. When you win the World Cup and the Euros with the French national team, you know you’ve had a great career. Then with Arsenal where he had most of his success as a player. He’s always been a huge player for me and it’s a dream for me to play against him.”
Enjoying success in all the major leagues in Europe, Henry has been a central figure in Le Toux’s growth as a forward and a professional player, with the 26-year-old emulating Henry’s game in a number of ways.
“He’s got lots of talent as he’s a great player,” Le Toux said of his countryman. “He uses his speed very well and because of that he was a great player in England and in France. I try to watch him play a lot as he’s a great player making runs and getting behind the defense so it’s really a pleasure to see him play here. On Saturday, I’m going to have to focus on my game, though, because if we start to watch him play, he’s going to beat you.”
[inline_node:319077]Even if he does get caught ball-watching once or twice when Henry is in possession, his primary concern will still be the men on the other end of the pitch.
Allowing an Eastern Conference lowest 27 goals this season, Rafa Márquez, Tim Ream and the rest of the Red Bulls defensive set-up will be a tough nut for Union strikers to crack.
“I just going to continue to play my own game,” Le Toux said. “Try to put pressure on the defense and force them into mistakes. After every game we see all these good opportunities, so we’re going to try and make the most of them. Even if they are a great defense with Márquez, I’m going to be ready for that on Saturday.”
It’ll be all business for Le Toux when the teams meet, even if his idol will be on the other team. Getting a result is what matters most to the Union’s MVP candidate.
“I’m going to be on the field, too, so I’m not really going to think about it,” Le Toux said of playing against Henry. “After the game I’ll be thinking about it, and before the game as well. During the game though I’ll be all about playing and having a good game.”