Sebastien Le Toux felt like a husband who had just caught his wife cheating.
Le Toux was “lost” and “a little bit furious” after learning in late January the Philadelphia Union had traded him to the Vancouver Whitecaps. On Saturday, he can show Philadelphia what it’s missing as the undefeated Whitecaps (2-0-1) visit the winless Union (0-3-0).
It’s evident there is still no love lost between Le Toux and Philly general manager Peter Nowak.
“I really enjoyed my two years over there,” Le Toux said. “I maybe wanted to be there at this time. But the manager was not on the same page as that and, maybe, wanted a different way without telling me these things.”
Le Toux said the “non-respect” was between him and Nowak. The new Whitecap had no beefs with his former teammates or Philly fans, with whom he was quite popular. The surprise trade came after Le Toux recorded 25 goals and 20 assists during his two Major League Soccer seasons in a Union jersey.
Upon returning from a training session with Bolton of the English Premier League that was arranged by the Union, Le Toux was thinking about signing a new contract with Philadelphia. But Nowak traded him to the Whitecaps for allocation money.
“I gave to him two years of good soccer and helped the team and [I was]maybe one of the big players in the team and did everything for the fans and the city,” Le Toux said. “It was a little bit sad how they ended with me.”
Le Toux forced the Whitecaps to do some damage control after he posted a note on Twitter shortly after the trade saying: “Just got traded to Vancouver! Saddest day for me in my Philadelphia Union story. … Still can’t believe it.”
He quickly backtracked, stressing his love for the Whitecaps, and has been a model player on the pitch. He scored a goal early in his first regular-season game with the Whitecaps, a 2-0 victory over Montreal, and has earned praise for his relentless running. Nowak sarcastically told reporters in Philadelphia that he would throw confetti upon Le Toux’s return. But Le Toux insists that he has nothing to prove to Nowak.
“He knows what he’s missing,” Le Toux said. “His results speak more for him.”
Returns are the dominant theme in Le Toux’s first game against his former club. Jordan Harvey and backup goalkeeper Brad Knighton will also visit their former Union club. Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie said Harvey, a Philadelphia native acquired last season, could start at left-back in place of Alain Rochat, who is out with a knee injury suffered in last weekend’s 0-0 tie with D.C. United.
“We’ve said all along that we have a strength in the squad here, and now these guys are going to be counted on,” said captain Jay DeMerit about potential replacements. “Everyone knows their roles and responsibility. … If you’re not in the 11 and you get called upon to now be in the 11, it’s your job to go in and fit in just like the last guy did.”
Rochat, a picture of composure on the back line, has been one of Vancouver’s most reliable players in his two seasons with the Caps. The Swiss-Canadian’s absence spells a potentially large loss, but DeMerit said Harvey knows his hometown team well and will be up to the task of replacing Rochat.
In the most dramatic return, Atiba Harris, who missed most of last season with a knee injury that required two surgical procedures and suffered another knee knock in the preseason, made the trip to Philadelphia. He is listed as a probable starter at striker in place of Eric Hassli, who remained home with a sore ankle.
“It’s been almost a year since I’ve played a real game, so to speak, so I’m looking forward to at least make an effort to try to, maybe, [get in the lineup]in Philadelphia,” said Harris, who originally hurt his knee in a game against the Union.
Picking up on the returns theme, Harris offers considerable offensive upside to a talented up-front group looking to regain form. The Whitecaps have yet to allow a goal this season, but have only scored one in the past two weeks. Brazilian striker Camilo (12 goals) and French counterpart Hassli (10) ranked among the league’s scoring leaders in 2011, but have yet to find the back of the net.
Harris recorded two goals and three assists in just five games last season.
Meanwhile, midfielder John Thorrington could also make a big comeback after missing most of last season due to nerve problems in his back. He was also sidelined the past month with a torn quadriceps muscle suffered in pre-season.
Coach Rennie said midfield is one area where the Whitecaps need to show improvement. The Whitecaps took 19 players on the trip, but only 18 can suit up. Thorrington, a strong presence in the centre of the pitch when healthy, said he should return this week or next.
“Hopefully, without any sebacks, I’ll be back soon,” he said.
Notes: Whitecaps striker Darren Mattocks, who suffered shoulder burns in a cooking accident at home, was released from hospital this week and is expected to resume training soon. ... Union forward Krystian Witkowski is out with a concussion. ... This is the only meeting between Philadelphia and Vancouver this season. They split their two games in 2011.
The Canadian Press