HARRISON, N.J. – Because the Philadelphia Union had not been awarded a penalty kick since the 2012 season there was a question as to who would be the man on the spot this year.
The answer, for one game at least, turned out to be the same player who took every penalty kick during the franchise’s first two seasons: Sebastien Le Toux.
On Wednesday at Red Bull Arena, after the Union broke a streak of 41 games without a penalty kick, Le Toux jumped at the opportunity to shoot from the spot and delivered a PK goal – though it ultimately wasn’t enough for Philly in their 2-1 loss to the Red Bulls.
The Frenchman is now a perfect eight-for-eight on penalty kicks with the Union, having made the first seven in franchise history from 2010 to 2011 before being traded prior to the 2012 season.
“It had been a long time,” Le Toux told MLSsoccer.com. “There’s a little pressure when you take it, but I’m pretty confident taking them. … For me, it was good to come back and be more confident and be a good leader on this team because I know I’m not afraid to take any PKs this year.”
Le Toux, who returned to the Union in 2013, noted that he sometimes practices penalty kicks with Cristian Maidana, but that the team doesn’t have one designated PK taker.
On Wednesday, after New York’s Ibrahim Sekagya was called for a handball in the box when he batted down a Maurice Edu shot that was destined for the back of the net, the Frenchman simply picked up the ball and told his teammates he would take it.
“You have to be a little bit selfish,” he said.
In many ways, it was a tough spot for Le Toux, who played for the Red Bulls during part of the 2012 season and used to practice shooting PKs on New York goalkeeper Luis Robles.
But even though Robles correctly guessed which side Le Toux would shoot, the Frenchman still managed to fire it under the ’keeper to bring the Union within 2-1.
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“I knew Luis knew me a little bit because we used to do a lot of PKs just for fun when I was in New York,” Le Toux said. “And he kind of knows right is usually my strong side. I waited for a little bit to see what he’d do and he kind of stayed on his line and I went to the right side. Luckily it went under his stomach, so I’m glad he didn’t stop it. But it wasn’t enough for us to come back in the game.”
Indeed, while it was nice for the Union to finally earn a PK – especially after they felt they should have been awarded two in last Saturday’s 2-2 draw with Real Salt Lake – it was hard to focus on that when they couldn’t find the equalizer while up a man.
“We broke the streak, but we hoped to get more,” Le Toux said. “Winning games is what we want.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.