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What is D.C. United getting by signing Sebastien Le Toux?

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We checked in with fellow SBN sites Burgundy Wave and The Brotherly Game for more on United’s newest signing

We watch a ton of MLS games, so we have a pretty good handle on what D.C. United acquired by signing Sebastien Le Toux as a free agent. The French veteran is a hard-working, tireless winger with a knack for providing dangerous crosses and a record of popping up to score important goals. He’s a fan favorite in Philly, and his track record on penalty kicks (13 goals in 14 attempts) is among the best in MLS history.

However, it’s always important to seek out people that know even more than you. Since Le Toux spent 2016 with the Philadelphia Union and Colorado Rapids, the people that saw him play the most are our friends from the blogs that cover those teams. Who better to consult than the folks that saw him week-in and week-out?

First up, here’s how the Burgundy Wave felt about his time with the Rapids in their season player ratings:

Sebastien Le Toux - 4 (5.94): Le Toux joined the team just at the trade deadline to give a spark to the Rapids; unfortunately he did not get them that much of a spark. He seemed slow and wasn’t a great fit with the team. His experience and skill was needed in attack, but instead he had too many turnovers and didn’t do a great job of defending, though he did work his tail off. He scored his only goal for the Rapids against Portland, a key win late in the season.

We also checked in with managing editor Abbie Mood for more information on that uninspiring review of Le Toux’s time in the Rockies:

I don't necessarily think he wasn't a great fit for the team, I just think he didn't come in and do what we had hoped/expected him to do. What I noticed quite a bit, especially at the beginning, was that he had great vision and tried to make some great plays, but he just didn't connect with the other player, so instead of sparking the offense, his crosses/passes led to turnovers (which was mentioned in the player ratings).

The season rating also mentioned his only goal was the one against Portland. That also happened to be the game that his wife attended. When Le Toux came to Colorado from Philadelphia, apparently she didn't come with him, and that may have taken a toll on him mentally/emotionally. Also coming in mid-season is very different than at the beginning of the season, so I would expect that he might have better chemistry with the team in D.C.

Suffice it to say, Le Toux’s time with Colorado didn’t quite push the Rapids to the next level. He did do enough to stay in the lineup, though, and started three playoff games for Pablo Mastroeni. One goal and two assists in eleven appearances (eight starts) is not an awful total by any means - it would put him in the 3 goal/6-7 assist range over a full season - but it does point to Le Toux being solid depth rather than a potential new starter.

Let’s move on to the place Le Toux spent the first two-thirds of last season with, and the club he’s most widely identified with. Le Toux has six seasons with the Philadelphia Union spread over two stints, and as such the folks at The Brotherly Game have probably seen him play more games than anyone else. Here’s managing editor Eugene Rupinski:

Sebastien Le Toux was the quintessential Philadelphia Union player. No one has done more in a blue and gold uniform than Seba. He holds club records in just about every offensive category, including goals and assists. As legendary as his work ethic is, it was his ability to connect with the fans that made him a player that is still revered here in Philadelphia. When it was announced that Seba was leaving, we asked our readers for their best stories of interactions with him and it seemed like everyone had one. From him having to be physically pulled onto a team bus to stop him from signing autographs and talking to fans to random encounters in the area, he has endeared himself to the fans here.

On the soccer side of things, he can play as a striker or right winger and even though he might not be quite as fast as he was in the first few years of his career, he is still a threat to burn a defender down the sideline. If he's going to play striker, he'll most likely need to pair with a big physical striker, as he had his greatest success playing in tandem with a target striker to feed off of. I don't think there's a harder worker in MLS - the guy busts his ass every day in training and on the field and is a great guy in the locker room.

It’s not hard to see why Union fans would love Le Toux. The stories from off the field and the hard work on it are the kind of thing that appeal to any fanbase (particularly the legendary blue collar nature of Philly sports fans). There’s also the fact that he’s their most productive attacker of all time. In 175 appearances (149 starts), Le Toux has 50 goals and 50 assists with the Union. True, he never matched 2010’s 14 goal/11 assist season (his first season with Philly), but his least productive full season as a Union player still saw him post a respectable 8 goals and 6 assists in 2015.

Le Toux’s work rate has been a constant source of praise since he first landed on MLS fan radars (probably his Open Cup performances with the pre-MLS Seattle Sounders). There are issues with Le Toux’s game, to be sure, but he is extraordinarily fit and will never be accused of quitting on a loose ball or failing to track back. United may no longer be a defense-first, defense-second sort of team, but that doesn’t mean a strong work ethic is any less valued at RFK Stadium.

The flip side of this coin is that Le Toux’s career numbers playing anywhere other than Philly are...not great. Across 72 appearances (50 starts) with Seattle, Vancouver, the Red Bulls, and Colorado, Le Toux posted 7 goals and 7 assists. Some of that is down to an uncertain role; the Red Bulls, for example, were never sure whether Le Toux was a forward or a winger. That won’t be a problem here; Le Toux is a winger in Ben Olsen’s 4141, and will spend the large portion of his time with United on the right flank.

It’s also worth noting that Le Toux, at 33, is showing signs of being a declining force. That 8 goal/6 assist was followed by a 2016 in which he managed 2 goals and 5 assists in 21 appearances for Philadelphia before leaving. That’s not bad, but Jim Curtin was phasing him out of the starting lineup (four of his final six appearances before being traded were off the bench) for a reason. However, since United isn’t bringing him in to start, this shouldn’t be seen as a major problem.

Ultimately, United bolstered a group of wingers that needed one more quality option with just that. Le Toux, at 33, might be a bit older than folks were hoping for, and he may yet be on a salary slightly above what would be ideal for a second-choice option in this league, but he’s still a very capable player who fits what United wants out of their wingers. He’s not going to need to adjust to MLS, and he’s not going to wilt when the summer schedule gets tough.

Our thanks to Abbie and Eugene for their generous contributions to this piece. Read more of their work at Burgundy Wave and The Brotherly Game.