Of course, Le Toux’s legacy in Philly was already secure long before the Union’s 2-1 loss in Seattle on Saturday. The Frenchman not only leads the club in just about every statistical category—including goals, assists, games played and minutes. But he's also provided a main face for the franchise ever since logging a hat trick in the club’s first-ever home game in 2010.
And even as his role on the team has changed over the years—from top striker to winger to key reserve—it’s fair to say that he’s always been one of the team’s most popular players, stopping often to sign autographs for fans and pose for photos.
The feeling is mutual, and Le Toux has fallen so in love with Philadelphia that he's decided to make it his long-term home with his wife, even if he finishes his career elsewhere. (He’ll be a free agent at the end of the season but says that he would prefer to retire with the Union).
Leading up to this Saturday’s game pitting the Union against New York City FC at Talen Energy Stadium (4 p.m. ET, MLS LIVE) we sat down with Le Toux to discuss his favorite things about Philly, and why he’s fallen in love with a city nearly 4000 miles away from his original home in France.
The brotherly love
A few months ago, Le Toux was enjoying happy hour at the popular Mexican restaurant El Vez, when a random person tapped him on the shoulder out of nowhere and asked if he, his wife, and his cousin wanted tickets to the Philadelphia Flyers game that evening. They accepted, finished their appetizers, and rushed down to the game, settling into a nice suite to watch the Flyers overcome a 3-0 deficit to beat the St. Louis Blues, 4-3. “Best game ever,” Le Toux says of the evening. “It was like it was meant to be.”
The other sports teams
Le Toux had already turned into a big Flyers fan long before that encounter. After Union practice this past Wednesday, he got a bunch of his teammates together to put on Flyers shirts, hoping to bring the NHL team some luck after they fell behind 3-0 in their opening-round playoff series with the Washington Capitals.
He also loves going to the Eagles games, even though he didn’t know a thing about American football before coming to the US. “I had no idea,” he says. “I didn’t even know the rules.”
Although the Union aren’t as big in Philly as the Eagles, Flyers, Phillies and 76ers, Le Toux says he does get recognized a lot while walking around the city. And the affable Frenchman with the distinctive face and constant smile enjoys it. So when his wife notices someone who might be apprehensive about approaching him, she tells Le Toux to go over and say hello. “If I can just say hi, it’s easy,” he says, “and it’s always great. I’ve never had people come to me and say, ‘Hey Le Toux, you’re a [jerk] and we hate you.’”
The chance encounters
Back in 2010, when he was living in the suburbs shortly after coming to the area following a stint with the Seattle Sounders, Le Toux was having dinner at a college bar in West Chester called Kildare’s Irish Pub. Soon, he started talking to a girl named Kendall. “She had no idea who I was,” he said. “She had no idea we had a soccer team here. At first, I think she was joking about what I was doing here.” They’ll be married for two years today.
The restaurant scene
Le Toux knows he and his wife will go out to eat somewhere to celebrate their two-year anniversary but he wasn’t sure where. That’s the good thing about Philly, he says—there are so many great places from which to choose. He particularly likes the stretch of 13th Street that features Barbuzzo, Sampan, Zavino and El Vez (even when people don’t give him Flyers tickets).
Le Toux and his wife also like to go out near where they live in the bustling Northern Liberties neighborhood, whether for tacos at Loco Pez, bowling at North Bowl, or jazz music and a glass of wine at Heritage. Sadly, for those who love Le Toux’s incredible karaoke skills, he said he only sings for team videos and not out in Philly bars. Still, we’ll always have this:
The small-town feel
Although Philly is the fifth-biggest city in the country by population, it has a funny way of feeling small. For instance, Le Toux lives on a narrow block, next to a very big block (Spring Garden). And like a lot of people, he often walks around the heart of the city with his family and friends. “It’s a big town,” he says, “but it doesn’t feel big.”
The beer gardens
One of the best things the city has to offer in the summer are pop-up beer gardens that offer outdoor seating, games and, yes, beer. Le Toux especially likes the games, including cornhole, where his competitive streak comes out in a big way. “When I play a game,” he says, “I like to win.”
One of the biggest beer gardens is right near Independence Hall in Philly’s historic district. And even when not playing competitive cornhole, Le Toux has indeed walked around that area and done the whole Liberty Bell thing. He also recently checked out Elfreth’s Alley, the country’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street.
The soccer stadium
It might not actually be inside the city limits, but Le Toux has forged a lifetime’s worth of memories at the Union’s home in Chester, now called Talen Energy Stadium. He scored the first-ever goal there in 2010, scored the only playoff goal there in 2011, and gets showered with incredibly loud “Le Touuuuuuux” chants every time he enters a game.
“At the beginning, lots of people asked, ‘Why are they booing you?’” he says, laughing. “And I’m like, ‘No, my name is Le Toux. That’s why it sounds like 'boo.'”
We can be sure of one thing: this proud adopted Philadelphian will never hear many real boos in the home he loves.