UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls will have a chance to potentially earn a Knockout Round bye if they can beat the Philadelphia Union in their regular season finale this weekend (1:30 pm ET, NBC).
But for forward Sebastian Le Toux, the game means more than that.
Aside from the postseason implications for his club, Saturday’s trip to PPL Park will mark Le Toux's second trip this season to the stadium where he made a name for himself in MLS. Le Toux put together back-to-back seasons with double-digit goals in 2010 and 2011 as a member of the Union, and he admitted on Tuesday that it will be nice to make a brief return.
WATCH: Le Toux makes appearance on Keel cam
“I know I have lots of friends and family that are going to come see me if I have a chance to play,” Le Toux told MLSsoccer.com. “Of course, it’s always a special place for me to play. It’s where I loved to play before I got moved everywhere this year. But it’s a special place for me and I’m always very happy to go back over there.”
But as Le Toux pointed out, earning playing time on Saturday afternoon is anything but a given.
Since joining the Red Bulls via trade in July and making an impact as a starter in both of his first two games, Le Toux has gone ice cold both up top and as a wide midfielder. He has been unable to register a goal or assist in his last 11 games and manager Hans Backe has relegated the 28-year-old forward to the bench in recent weeks, giving Le Toux only one substitute appearance in the club’s last three matches (a 19-minute performance in a 2-0 loss to the Chicago Fire on Oct. 6).
Backe did not reveal on Wednesday who he might go with at the wide position against the Union, but he some options.
“We have Jan [Gunnar Solli], we have Dax [McCarty], we could switch a little bit and play Roy [Miller] in a wide position, Joel [Lindpere], even Connor Lade could be an option,” said Backe. “We have four or five options.”
And what about Le Toux?
"If we need pace from the wide position, he’s definitely a guy who can play wide even if it’s not his best option,” Backe said. “He will always do a good job for us there.”
Le Toux admitted he is not content with his recent lack of minutes, but he is staying ready just in case Backe calls upon him to produce in the upcoming weeks.
“If you ask every player, I don’t think anybody is going to be entirely happy with not playing,” Le Toux said. “I just want to help the team the best I can and it is a coaching decision. I’m just always ready and I try to stay healthy and doing some things on the field when I play.”
It is clear that Le Toux favors playing up top, but Backe may be forced to deploy him out on the right side of midfield again given the recent season-ending injury to midfielder Lloyd Sam. While that may not be his preferred position, Le Toux, who is in the final year of his contract, is not opposed to playing there if the team requires him to do so.
“I know what I can do as a forward and I’ve proved it a few years and I know what I can do as a midfielder, so I just need to do what the team needs,” Le Toux said. “The playoffs are just what the team is thinking now and my personal case, I will see this at the end of [the season].”
Conde likely out vs. Union
After a brief absence for what were deemed personal reasons, defender Wilman Conde is expected to be back with the Red Bulls later this week, Backe confirmed to MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. Conde, however, seems all but likely to miss out on the Red Bulls’ regular season finale against the Union on Saturday due to the recent time he has missed.
“When you’ve been out for a couple of weeks, probably not,” Backe told MLSsoccer.com of Conde’s availability for Saturday.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.