CHESTER, Pa. — As one of the best goalkeepers in MLS history stared him down and other players on FC Dallas bumped into him or dug their cleats into the grass by the penalty spot, Philadelphia Union striker Sébastien Le Toux simply averted his eyes.
All the French striker was thinking about at that moment, as he prepared to take his second penalty kick of Saturday night’s game, was his task at hand. And nobody on Dallas, not even star 'keeper Kevin Hartman, was going to get into his head.
“I was staying really focused,” Le Toux told MLSsoccer.com. “I won’t be disturbed by anything.”
The result of such resolve was Le Toux’s second goal of the game and one crucial point for the Union, who earned a come-from-behind 2-2 draw with FC Dallas on the strength of the Frenchman’s brace. The unflappable Le Toux has now made all six of his penalty kicks since coming to Philly before the start of the 2010 season. No one else on the club has ever even attempted one.
“I like to take them and it’s something I’m pretty confident about,” Le Toux said. “I work on them before practice sometimes. People know on the team I like to take them and they’re confident in me taking them.”
While the striker has certainly proved adept at burying penalty kicks, Saturday’s game presented him with a unique challenge: After making his first by going to Hartman’s right side, should he shoot the second one in the same direction? Making matters even more complicated was the fact that Hartman guessed correctly on Le Toux’s first attempt but couldn’t catch up to his hard shot.
In the end, the Frenchman decided to go in the same direction as his first kick — and, this time, there was no doubt as Hartman guessed wrong.
“That’s the side I like to go most of the time,” Le Toux said. “I like to switch, too, but I was feeling well with that side so I went there twice. It worked so I’m happy.”
Le Toux admitted the two goals — which came in the 34th and 86th minutes — will help his confidence and perhaps steer him toward his first goal in the run of play. Despite playing all 2,070 minutes this season, all three of Le Toux’s goals this season have come from penalty kicks.
For Union manager Peter Nowak, however, Le Toux’s scoring struggles have been over-analyzed. The striker, after all, has still been arguably the team’s most valuable player this season.
“We’ve been talking, we’ve been debating, trying to figure out this and that, goals from the run of play or not — who cares?” Nowak said. “Two goals are two goals. This is good for every player’s mentality.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @DaveZeitlin.