PrintPrint

Le Toux reacts with sadness to trade to Vancouver

The Canadian Press

1/31/2012 6:13:11 PM

VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver Whitecaps were forced to do some damage control Tuesday after acquiring high-scoring French midfielder Sebastien Le Toux.

Le Toux tweeted: "Just got traded to Vancouver! Saddest day for me in my Philadelphia Union story.... Still can't believe it."

But he later changed his tune on Twitter and during a conference call with reporters. Le Toux said it was hard to leave Philadelphia because he was committed 100 per cent to the Union, but he vowed to give total allegiance to the Whitecaps and make fans proud of his new team.

"I'm really happy to go to Vancouver," said Le Toux, adding he was glad to be going to a team that really wants him. "It's a great city to live and play football in. I'm very excited to go back in the West Coast."

Vancouver coach Martin Rennie said he spoke to Le Toux and read the tweet and believes his new star has a strong desire to excel with the Whitecaps.

"I think he was more sad about leaving Philadelphia, which is understandable," said Rennie. "He was the face of their franchise for the last two years and very popular.

"But he is excited about becoming popular in Vancouver. He lived in the Northwest when he was in Seattle and loves the area, and he knows a lot about our team and the additions we've made. He knows that there's exciting things happening in Vancouver."

Before making the jump to MLS, Le Toux spent two seasons with Seattle in the old United Soccer Leagues First Division (USL-1) and played several games against Vancouver. He also played two seasons for FC Lorient-Bretagne Sud in France's Ligue 2.

The Union received allocation money in the deal. The 28-year-old Frenchman had just one goal for Seattle in his 2009 debut season in Major League Soccer but found his form in Philadelphia, scoring 25 goals and adding 15 assists over the last two years.

Whitecaps president Bob Lenarduzzi said it's been interesting to see Le Toux's evolution as he has progressed from USL to MLS and kept scoring.

"Forty points is a lot of points in MLS, and we're looking forward to (Le Toux) coming in and continuing that goal-scoring production," said Lenarduzzi. "What we like about Sebastien is obviously the points that he puts on the board. But in addition to that, his work rate for a forward is second to none."

Le Toux won the MLS Individual Fair Play Award in 2010 and 2011. He started every match for the Union last season and recorded 11 goals and nine assists.

Lenarduzzi revealed the Whitecaps enquired with Philadelphia halfway through last season but were rebuffed. Le Toux adds to an already strong Vancouver attack while offering a stronger midfield game. The Whitecaps had two of the league's top scorers last season in Brazilian striker Camilo (12 goals) and French counterpart Eric Hassli (10), but struggled in the middle of the pitch.

Rennie feels Hassli and Le Toux can play together because Hassli prefers to control the ball and the midfielder likes to run onto passes. Le Toux will play as a wide midfielder, slash into the box on scoring plays, and add height to a team that rarely scored on headers or set plays last season, Rennie added. Le Toux called Hassli a "fantastic player" and said he is looking forward to developing offensive chemistry with his French compatriot.

"It's going to be great to be with him in the same team and try to play together and make things happen," said Le Toux.

Rennie, who often saw Le Toux play in person and on TV the past two seasons while he was coaching the lower-tier Carolina Railhawks, said he was surprised Le Toux was available. The deal resulted after Le Toux had an unsuccessful tryout recently with Bolton Wanderers of the English Premier League and the Union did not receive a transfer-fee offer.

"It was just to visit," said Le Toux. "It was not really a tryout. It was to have a good experience. I wanted to stay playing in the U.S. because I still have one year (left on my) contract."

Philadelphia manager Peter Nowak also did some damage control of his own after giving up his top scorer without getting a player in return. He said the deal was tied to his club's decision to purchase 20-year-old Colombian striker Roger Torres' contract from America de Cali of Colombia's first division, after using him on loan the past two seasons, and develop young players already with the squad who were not rewarded adequately for their past efforts.

But the Union boss said the trade, which came a day after the club granted veteran goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon's request to be allowed to finish his career in his native Colombia, was not just about finding more money.

"We want to invest the resources we have in the players that we believe are going to be with the team for the future," said Nowak.

A sometimes testy Nowak insisted he did not know whether Le Toux, who has a year remaining on his contract, wanted to remain with the Union. Even if the midfielder did, it doesn't matter, because the team wants to build for the long term.

"The championship is not when you have the best players," said Nowak. "The championship team is when you have the best players who play together as a team. That's the philosophy behind it."

Le Toux will join the Whitecaps at a training camp in Arizona on Wednesday.