CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – Maybe Sébastien Le Toux was happy to see a few familiar faces. Or maybe that grin was there because he knows he can start anew in Vancouver with the Whitecaps.
“I’m always happy,” he told MLSsoccer.com on Monday with a laugh after Vancouver drew with Seattle 1-1 in a preseason scrimmage. Indeed, he has reason to feel that way.
Philadelphia – and all of the well-documented reasons and reactions that came out of his trade from the Union to the Whitecaps – is a thing of the past. Le Toux, a forward who had two outstanding seasons with the Union after his first MLS campaign with the Seattle Sounders in their inaugural season, sounds excited to have returned to the West Coast.
“It’s always great to be a part of a new team,” Le Toux said. “So far, it’s been great. My new teammates welcomed me very well and I feel comfortable to play here and the new coaching staff is great, too.”
Le Toux started for the Whitecaps on Monday afternoon against the Sounders in the first preseason training game for both clubs. He played the first 45 minutes of the draw, with wing Camilo Sanvezzo scoring for Vancouver just seconds into the match and center midfielder Servando Carrasco evening it up in the 47th minute with a goal for Seattle.
Interestingly enough, Le Toux had to leave Seattle after they left him unprotected in the 2009 Expansion Draft to truly showcase his abilities in MLS. The Sounders had preferred options at forward and moved Le Toux to more of an attacking midfielder role in 2009, and the Frenchman couldn’t find the scorer’s touch that made him popular with the USL version Sounders fans in the years preceding their promotion to MLS.
He found it again in Philly, with 27 combined goals in two years. But then he was dealt away last week for allocation money in a move that sent some ripples throughout MLS. Le Toux made public comments that were critical of the way the Union handled negotiations for a new contract with him.
“I said what I had to say after I left Philadelphia, but for me, it was important to make it clear for the fans and for people who really supported me from the beginning,” Le Toux said. “I just wanted the people to know the story and what really happened and it was not really my decision to leave.
“I’m glad another team like the Whitecaps really wanted me,” he added.
Now, Le Toux is in Arizona getting ready for the upcoming season with the Whitecaps, and the home he made for himself outside of Seattle is suddenly going to be a lot closer to where he plays.
“They’re all good guys, so it’s always fun to play against each other,“ Le Toux said, adding that he looks forward to the regular-season matches. Sounders fans will more than likely put aside the rivalry with their Cascadia neighbors when it comes to Le Toux, the first player signed in Sounders’ MLS history.
“We won 1-0 against the starting lineup of Seattle,” he said of Monday’s game. “So it’s good for the confidence before we’re ready.”
Vancouver’s new attack
The Whitecaps’ first unit – with Eric Hassli at striker, Le Toux playing off him with Atiba Harris and Alain Rochat, Jay DeMerit and newcomers Jun Marques Davidson and Lee Young-Pyo (above, on left) the back line – outplayed the Sounders’ No. 1 team.
Vancouver held more possession and attacked better in the first 45 minutes, then continued the attack for the second part of the next 45 minutes with Omar Salgado and Lee Nguyen making strong runs.
Salgado was a handful for the Sounders’ backup defenders.
“We were dangerous when we were going forward,” Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie told reporters. “Generally, we defended quite well. Overall for this stage of the season, we’re only a week or so into our training, it was good.”
Rennie said Salgado, an 18-year-old striker going into his second MLS season, and Nguyen, a midfielder who was a notable offseason signing, looked “lively,” adding that Salgado has gotten stronger in the offseason.