As D.C. United transitioned from struggling to score goals in the first half of 2016 to becoming one of the highest scoring teams by season’s end, the wide midfield positions were one of their biggest strengths. Patrick Nyarko and Lamar Neagle were productive offseason signings, and the midseason acquisition of Lloyd Sam was another in the line of shrewd MLS pickups by Olsen and General Manager Dave Kasper.
By the end of the season, United was so well set on the left and the right, that Neagle, who ended up as United’s leading scorer in 2016, was regularly featuring as a substitute, with the occasional start on short rest.
So it might have been some surprise that Sebastien Le Toux, who has made his living in MLS playing on the wings, signed in January as a free agent with the Black-and-Red. Knowing that Sam, Nyarko, and Neagle were all returning, didn’t deter Le Toux from joining his sixth MLS club during the course of his career.
But there were plenty of reasons for the 33 year old to play in the nation’s capital.
“This is more about what you have in your life. I’m more settled, as man. I have a wife, I have friends, there is more going on in my life than soccer,” Le Toux told B&RU this week during United’s Florida preseason camp.
Le Toux spent the second half of the 2016 season in Rocky Mountains, having been traded from the Philadelphia Union to the Colorado Rapids. That meant time away from his wife, who owns a business in Philadelphia.
So at the end of the contract, which was originally inked in a sign and trade deal with the New York Red Bulls and the Philadelphia Union in 2013, Le Toux was looking to head back to the East Coast as a free agent. Philadelphia wasn’t a real option, considering that the Union had just traded him away a few months ago. And playing elsewhere would have meant more time away from his wife.
“In our relationship, we never talked about her stopping work, because she already stopped the first time when she flew me to Vancouver,” Le Toux said of his wife, Kendall. “I can’t ask her again to stop what she is doing. She needs her own career too.”
There was some interest from Colorado, but Le Toux said they dragged their feet in offering him a contract. He wanted to show up with a new team at the start of preseason, not willing to try to wait until just before league play begins.
It took a couple of rounds with United, but eventually, both sides were able to work a deal that suited both.
“This year was different, because I knew I was a free agent with a high salary, and some teams were worried about my salary,” Le Toux said. In 2016, Le Toux had a base salary of $300,000. He took a pay cut to join the Black-and-Red.
“But my first choice was D.C. When I talked with my agent, I said we can work something with D.C.”
That was despite knowing that United’s three wingers would be returning this year. “I know right now I might not be a starting player,” Le Toux said. “I’m trying to fit into the group, and bring something to help when they decide to bring me in.”
That said, Le Toux isn’t willing to just accept the role of a substitute. He believes that he can still contribute with his play on the field, and wants to show during preseason that he’s capable of being the player that has chipped in 57 goals and 57 assists in nine MLS seasons. “I want to be a starter in this team. And bring a good atmosphere and leadership, and make sure we are winning games,” said Le Toux.
Le Toux is just the latest in a long line of players to have suited up for both United and the Union. Fifteen different players have donned both sets of colors, despite the Union entering just their eight MLS season.
United fans might remember Le Toux most prominently for his exploits in the Union’s first ever home game, played at Lincoln Financial Field during the second week of the 2010 season. In the Union’s second-ever game, Le Toux notched a hat trick, as the Philadelphia side notched their first win in their history.
However, Le Toux never really considered United a fierce rival of the Union. Which made him signing with the Black-and-Red all that much easier.
“It’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come here, because I never had a bad feeling about D.C.,” Le Toux told B&RU. “We played a lot of games against each other, and they got intense, but I never had a hate feeling that I had when we played the Red Bulls or [the Revolution].”
Playing for two teams during 2016, Le Toux’s offensive output dwindled. In 2014 and 2015, Le Toux scored 8 and 12 goals, respectively. Splitting time with the Union and Rapids in 2016, Le Toux’s goals dropped drastically to just 3, though he still chipped in 7 total assists.
That has Le Toux thinking he can contribute to what United expects to be a deep run into the playoffs. Whether that’s as a starter or coming on as a substitute.
“I know I can still play. I know I can still bring goals and assists. As an older player now, I want to make sure that the team wins,” said Le Toux. “That’s what matters to me. I want to be in the playoffs, and get into a higher position than last year.”