Le Toux proves clutch when Union need him most


CHESTER, Pa.Sbastien Le Toux practiced hard to perfect itand not only his immense soccer ability.

The Philadelphia Union star striker also showed recently that hes an accomplished dancer when, after scoring his second goal in Phillys eventual 3-2 win over D.C. United last Thursday, he impersonated the guy from that AT&T commercial who starts the flash dance too early because he has bad cell phone service. (If you watch TV at all, you know the commercial; its on all the time).

Every time I see that commercial, I stand up in my living room and dance like him, Le Toux said, flashing that smile Union fans have come to know and love. Thats why I did it. I was waiting for a good moment, a good time.

While dancing during a game may rub some wrong people the wrong way, its important to note that creative goal-celebrations like these are pretty much accepted in soccer. Its also important to note that Le Toux kept this celebration in his back pocket for much of the season, waiting until his team was up by at least two goals to bring it out.

In fact, just a few weeks earlier, after scoring a goal to tie the New England Revolution at 4-4 and capping one of the greatest comebacks in MLS history, Le Toux ran into the net, picked up the ball and hustled back to midfield so the Union could try to score again before time expired.

Thats just the way the Frenchman is: thinking about the team above himself but also making sure everyone knows hes having fun when the time is right.

Union fans, meanwhile, have had plenty of fun watching Le Toux play in recent weeks as the striker has been scoring at an absolutely furious rate to put Philly on the brink of the franchises first playoff berth. And in a move that may have been surprising only to him, Le Toux recently nabbed the MLS Player of the Month award for September after scoring seven goals in six games.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about his offensive explosion is that Le Toux only scored three goalsall on penalty kicksin the five-and-a-half months before September. But the striker, who led the Union with 14 goals in their inaugural 2010 season, maintained all along that his time would come once again.

Of course I was working every day to make progress, Le Toux said. I got great work from my teammates, making it easy for me to put it in the back of the net. I have to thank everybody on my team. After I scored that first goal vs. Real Salt Lake on Sept. 3 from the run of play, I was on a good roll all of September. And its going to continue for the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

Just how clutch was the Frenchman last month?

Of his seven goals, two came in that crucial win over D.C. United last week, two more came in the clubs historic three-goal comeback against New England on Sept. 7, one tied the game against Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 23 to give the Union a hard-earned point on the road, and another proved to be the game-winner in a victory over Columbus on Sept. 17, Phillys first win in two months.

Le Toux has, quite simply, put his teammates on his back when they needed it most. And for Union manager Peter Nowak, who said the Player of the Month award was 100 percent deserved, he knew Le Toux was capable of this kind of scoring output, even as the striker struggled to find the back of the net for much of the season.

As soon as he scored that first goal from the run of the playand for you guys, its important he scores from the run of play and not on penalty kicksthat whole thing went off his shoulders and you could see the change in his mentality and his perspective on things, Nowak said. He was worried about too many things at that time. As Ive said many times, if youre stressed, things are not going to go your way. I think hes more relaxed now, and focused as well.

Nowak also noted how valuable Le Toux is to the team even when hes not scoring. And thats certainly evident by the fact he leads the club with eight assists and is the only Union player whos played every single minute of every single game. He also probably hustles as much, or more, as anyone else in the league while, somehow, never seeming to tire or slow down.

It doesnt look like he gets tired, Union teammate Gabriel Farfan admitted. But Im sure his body is a bit fatigued from the entire season.

Even if he is fatigued, Le Toux certainly wont show it, not with just three games left in the regular season, including Saturdays pivotal contest against the Seattle Sounders (10 p.m., Comcast SportsNet) - a game that holds special meaning to Le Toux.

The Frenchman played for Seattle for three years but left town when the club made what can now only be described as a foolish decision to leave him unprotected for the 2009 expansion draftwhere the Union gladly scooped him up.

Its always special for me to go back there, Le Toux said. I have lots of good memories. I really enjoyed the time when I was there. Im glad about where they are right now and I wish them best.

So when Le Toux returns to Seattle this weekend, he has no plans of trying to rub it in and prove to his ex-employers that they made a mistake by not protecting him. He doesnt need to. Everyone, by now, has figured out that this Frenchman has all the right moves.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com and writes a weekly Union column for CSNPhilly.com. You can e-mail him at djzeitlin@gmail.com.

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