Monday, March 5, 2012

One on One with Sebastien Le Toux

The departure of Sebastien Le Toux from Philadelphia to Vancouver is well documented and there have been several perspectives offered. As the pre-season winds down, Le Toux has found success. He played with the team in Arizona and helped them to the final in the Disney Pro Classic. All signs point to a bright future with the Whitecaps. I caught up with the former MLS All-Star after Vancouver's exhibition with the Carolina Railhawks to find out how things have been going and how he remembers them a month later. Here is what Le Toux had to say: 

MLS Reserves: What was it like for you to arrive with Vancouver and how has the pre-season gone for you?

Sebastien Le Toux: “When I knew I was going to be traded I was a bit surprised. I was not expecting to leave Philadelphia but it went pretty fast. After I arrived in Phoenix, Arizona [where the Whitecaps started off pre-season] everyone welcomed me very well. They were very happy to get me and I felt that from the beginning from the coaching staff and the players.”

“I’ve found my place with them, day after day, week after week. I’m really very happy to be with Vancouver.”

Le Toux arrives to the Whitecaps as they undergo reconstruction under new head coach Martin Rennie. Rennie, like Le Toux, has risen through the ranks of American soccer successfully. Under Martin, Vancouver has signed a number of offensive players to support those already in place. Joining Eric Hasli are NASL Golden Boot winner Etienne Barbara, 2012 SuperDraft 2nd pick Darren Mattocks and of course Le Toux himself. There will certainly be competition for playing time. 

MLS Reserves: You came to Vancouver and they have a lot of offensive talent on the roster. What is it like to be competing for those spots and knowing that players are nipping at your heels to play?

Sebastien Le Toux: “It’s great. It puts competitive energy into practice. We know people can step up and make a difference, even if the season you’re not a starter. We have lots of quality players and lots of young players with a lot to learn. So every time we’re at practice we’re sure they can play. It’s interesting but we try to learn and be better as a team first.”

“Of course scoring more goals is an objective, but to defend too is something we work with the coaching staff for. Working with Martin Rennie right now is exciting, learning the way he wants us to play. We are all excited to be a part of that.”

Le Toux captained the Vancouver against Carolina

MLS Reserves: For a young Philadelphia team, you scored ten plus goals in both seasons. Some have called you the face of the young franchise, then seemingly all of the sudden you’re sent on trial with Bolton. You’re let go and a there’s a huge media storm. Can you talk about what happened, how you got through it and the mental recovery as well?

Sebastien Le Toux: “It went very quick. I had just come back from vacation in January to do my routine [to get in shape] like I usually do for two weeks on my own to get physically ready. I receive from Diego Gutierrez, the Sporting Director, telling me that Bolton wanted me to come and visit for a week and try out.”

“At the beginning I said no. I knew I wasn’t ready physically. I did not want to go and be bad, not play well and be out of shape. They told me the coach was very interested in me and at the same time I was trying to negotiate a contract with the league and with Philadelphia because it is my last year of contract. I wanted to stay after the two good years I had. I thought for me it was normal that I’d get a new contract.”

“They wanted to make money if they sent me to an EPL team and have a good transfer fee, but I just was not ready physically. I was jet lagged, sleeping during the day and living at night. It was a bit different because they were in the middle of the season and it was winter. I did not push myself as hard I can because I did not want to be injured stupidly. I did what I could, but I treated it more as a visit than a tryout. In the end they wanted me to stay more, but I wanted to come back to the US.”

As far as his return from Bolton, Le Toux was frustrated by the lack of communication from Philadelphia. It was easy to see the frustration in his face as he spoke. 

Sebastien Le Toux: “Nobody was talking to me or telling me what was going on until February 1st. I found out quickly that Philadelphia did not want to sign me and a trade was going to happen. The trade for me was a bit ridiculous because of how I was playing with Philadelphia and my connection with the fans. It seemed good to me but they decided other things. The way they treated me, I was sad about it.”

“What I want people to know about my story is what I’m telling you right now: it was not my idea to go to Bolton, Philadelphia sent me there. My first answer was to say no I want to stay here, give me a new contract if possible. So things went different ways…”

MLS Reserves: One of the things that the media caught on to, was that you did not have an agent. Do you have one now and why did you not have one before?

Sebastien Le Toux: “Haha yes, I have one now. I did not have one...well because for me, I know everyone in the league after being here five years. I know how you can sign a contract with the league and agree with the league and then a team too. For me, I had a good connection with Nick Sakiewicz [Union CEO] and its Peter Nowak who decides my contract with Deigo Gutierrez [Sporting Director]. For me I don’t need to pay an agent something that I can do for myself, particularly when I was playing well."

"It’s always easier when you play well. I really wanted to be ‘man-to-man’ and be honest but you know that’s just the way it is. I’ve learned from the experience. I have an agent and it’ll be easier this way. I get older, better and I’m here in Vancouver, hopefully for a long time.”

MLS Reserves: When you think back to Philadelphia, are you thinking about Peter Nowak, the send off the fans give you? What comes to mind?

Sebastien Le Toux: “Great memories. I’m not going to dwell on Peter Nowak. As a manager, for two years, those were my two best years as a soccer player in the US. The fans were amazing to me and it’s a great town to play sports. Haha, it’s a sports town so it’s a great memory. I would come back to that town for vacation and I keep great contact with the fans. Always happy to come back and playing in front of those fans. It’s just positive. The good wins over the negative.


MLS Reserves: How do you build that same connection with the fans in Vancouver that you had with those in Philadelphia?

Sebastien Le Toux: “It’s easy. Every time I finish a game, I enjoy those who stick around. It’s who I was when I was younger. I was a fan first when I was young and now to be professional, fans give us lots of things when we’re on the field. If I can stop by and do a picture or sign, I will do it. Sometimes players forget it but I do my best to give back to the fans. We care about them too. They’re important.”

MLS Reserves: Sebastien thank you for your time today.

Sebastien Le Toux: "My pleasure."

For his part, Le Toux seems very committed to the team. In talking to those within the organization, they all say he's an extremely hard worker on the field and very professional off. Against Carolina, he wore the captain's armband. His sights are set on success with the Vancouver Whitecaps and another successful double digit year. Vancouver fans are likely hoping for the same. 

5 comments:

  1. One of my all-time favorite players for any team I've rooted for. We miss you Seba!

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  2. Le Toux is a classy gentleman. Any team would be lucky to have him.

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  3. Seba will always have a place in Philly. Classy guy and a first rate player. He'll be missed and we'll root for him as long as he's not playing against the Union. Good luck Seba...

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  4. As a Philly fan we will miss him. One of Le Toux's most underrated attributes is his tireless work ethic and how that translates to defense. He will bust his ass for Van be it at forward or wing and he will not only make the offense better but also really improve the defense. I would guarantee that their surge in improvement will be from the back line staying healthy and the midfielders and forwards playing a more team defense that works hard to win the ball back and this will all start with Le Toux.

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  5. I will miss my favorite Philadelphia Union player soooo much!! He's a great player and a true gentleman and has earned my respect. I just hope that he thinks kindly of us Philly fans and knows that we are sorry at the way things turned out

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