CHESTER, Pa. – With 10 games left in the season, Sebastien Le Toux has already set a career high in assists with 12. He has at least three more assists than anyone else in the league, and if his current pace holds, he’ll finish with the second highest single-season assist total of any MLS player in the last 10 years.
So how has the Philadelphia Union midfielder become such a master distributor after being more of a goal-scorer during his first stint in Philly from 2010 to 2011?
It’s all come down to his vastly improved service on set pieces.
“At the beginning of the year, we didn’t have one guy who kind of came up and said, ‘Hey, I’ll take this,’” Le Toux told MLSsoccer.com. “So I kind of tried it here and there. I’ve liked taking [set pieces] for a long time but I never really worked on it too much.”
Union manager John Hackworth admitted earlier in the season that Le Toux wasn’t expected to become the team’s primary taker of corner kicks, in part because it was something he often struggled with in 2010 and 2011.
But Le Toux quickly evolved into the team’s most productive winger while delivering crosses with far more accuracy. And the Union’s improved collection of target players, led by Conor Casey, have been able to bang them into the net.
Hackworth hopes the Frenchman’s assist total continues to rise when the Union visit Red Bull Arena on Saturday (8 pm ET, NBCSN) to face the New York Red Bulls, for whom Le Toux played during the end of the 2012 season.
“It’s great for Sebastien, it’s great for us and we hope he continues to do it,” Hackworth said. “We want him to get more and more and more [assists] as the last 10 games come. I certainly know Sebastien’s very motivated to go back to New York and get a result.”
Le Toux, who has embraced his new role as an outside midfielder this season, has the chance to join some exclusive company if his assist total continues to rise.
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The Frenchman is currently on pace for at least 17 assists. In the last 10 years, the only MLS player who had more was Guillermo Barros Schelotto, who finished with 19 for Columbus in 2008.
Is Le Toux thinking at all about his big-time stats?
“If I lead the league in assists, it’s great for me,” he said. “But it just means that if I get assists, we score goals. And if we score goals, we probably win games.
“I mean, at the end of the year, if I’m going to be the leader in assists, I will say, ‘OK, I’ll take it.’ But it’s not what I’m thinking about.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.