“I’m better than that.”
That was Sébastien Le Toux’s answer during a phone interview with MLSsoccer.com on Friday afternoon when asked if he had a response to Peter Nowak’s sarcastic suggestion that fans in Philadelphia would have confetti and banners prepared for the French striker’s return.
Saturday’s match between the Whitecaps and the Union (4 pm ET, watch LIVE online) – a battle between Le Toux's new team and his old one – was one many in Vancouver had marked on the calendar given the explosive way in which the forward departed the City of Brotherly Love.
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“It’s a special game for me,” Le Toux said. “I played two years here, and I know lots of people in this town, lots of fans and I really enjoyed playing for this team and for these fans. Lots of good emotions for me to step on this field where I had some good moments.”
Following an impressive finish to the 2011 campaign for the Union, Le Toux was hoping for a new, more lucrative contract. Instead he found himself sent over to England on trial with Bolton Wanderers as Nowak wasn’t prepared to offer him the kind of money he was looking for.
Le Toux admitted to the Vancouver media upon his arrival it was a trial he never put his heart into, and returned to Philadelphia early. It wasn’t long before he ended up being shipped to Vancouver in exchange for allocation money – a deal that raised eyebrows across the league, enraging many of the Philly faithful.
“I’ll never forget how it happened,” Le Toux said. “It was sad for me, and sad for the fans, but now I’m really happy to be in Vancouver. It’s a great place for me to be and I’m looking to a great season with the Whitecaps.”
Le Toux has been a key player in Vancouver’s quick start, in which the club has claimed seven points out of a possible nine. On opening day, he scored just four minutes in against the Montreal Impact.
In contrast, the Union have lost all three matches to open the season.
“I’m sad for the players I left to be 0-3, but I can see they are a different team,” Le Toux said. “I hope that they can do well for the rest of the season, but I hope it doesn’t start tomorrow against us.”
One of the big challenges for Le Toux and his teammates will be the absence of Eric Hassli, who didn’t travel with the team due to an ankle injury.
“He’s an important piece on the team and you can’t really replace him,” Le Toux said. “But the people who will play in his place will bring something else, and hopefully we can get the win with them.”
Alain Rochat (knee sprain) also didn’t make the trip. Attacker Camilo, meanwhile, struggled with a quad strain throughout the week so may not be fit for a full 90 minutes of action.
On the other side of the ledger, John Thorrington (quad) and Atiba Harris (knee) both traveled with the squad and could play some role.
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.