CHESTER, Pa. – Philadelphia Union interim manager John Hackworth has said that the recent addition of Sébastien Le Toux to the New York Red Bulls isn’t something his team wants to focus on heading into Saturday’s showdown at Red Bull Arena (2:30 pm ET, ESPN, Live Chat on MLSsoccer.com).
But at least a few Union players still believe the Frenchman’s presence will add a little bit of fuel to the New York-Philadelphia rivalry.
“I think that it would [increase the rivalry],” Union right back Sheanon Williams told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m sure in his mind, he doesn’t want us to come in there and beat him. And that’s exactly what we want to do.”
Le Toux (above, right with Philadelphia) starred for the Union during the franchise’s first two seasons before being traded to Vancouver in the offseason, and was then shipped by the Whitecaps to the Red Bulls last week.
The Union probably figured they had seen the last of Le Toux this year after the Whitecaps visited PPL Park in March for their only 2012 matchup with Philly. But now the popular ex-Union striker is just a short drive up the Jersey Turnpike, playing for a team Philly fans already loved to hate.
“I think it will be a little more intense,” center back Amobi Okugo said. “I know some fans are still upset with the way he left and everything. But we forgot about that. And now that he’s a New York Red Bull, we’re not going to play him lightly or anything just because he’s our old friend.”
WATCH: Le Toux opens NY scoring account in debut
On top of adding some intensity to Saturday’s game, the presence of Le Toux could also affect the strategy for both sides. Okugo noted that because most players in the Philly locker room know Le Toux well, they might have a better idea how to plan for New York’s star-studded attack that also features high-scoring forwards Kenny Cooper and Thierry Henry.
“It’ll be fun,” Okugo said. “I’m sure he’s giving everyone a scouting report of how we play, so we’re going to be ready for that. … And we know how he plays. We know what he can bring.”
The Union (6-9-2) also know what the talented Red Bulls (10-5-5) can bring, especially when they’re at home. In three visits to Red Bull Arena, the Union haven't mustered a single point.
That’s something they hope to change, especially now as they carry a three-game league winning streak into Saturday’s pivotal contest and look to gain more ground on another team ahead of them in the Eastern Conference standings.
“We need to not focus on the past but what we can do Saturday,” Hackworth said. “Recently we’ve recorded a lot of firsts for this club and I think it’s something the players are focused on for Saturday. Our goal is to go there, and in some way or fashion, get a result for the first time.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.