Union trade striker Le Toux to Vancouver


Union trade striker Le Toux to Vancouver

Forget England, Union star Sebastien Le Toux has been traded within the MLS.

Just days after returning from a fruitless trial with Barclays Premier Leagues Bolton Wanderers, the Union simply had no room for their leading scorer, as they traded him to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Tuesday for allocation money.

Just got traded to Vancouver! Le Toux said on his official Twitter, @SebastienLeToux. Saddest day for me in my Philadelphia Union story.... Still can't believe it.

For Union coach Peter Nowak, the move was all business.

Feelings are not included in my job description, Nowak said. I have to ensure the team is good and they have a goal set up in front of them. Its my job to make sure that the team will have a future. I have to see the overall picture and how the pieces fall into place.

Nowak added that the move was made to create space and had nothing to do with Le Touxs position or a specific formation the coach was trying to implement.

We have a commitment, said the coach. This is about the team. If you want to have a competitive sustainable advantage, you have to create room. We have to be secure for the future and have a group that can develop over a couple of years.

Its not about one player, its about the team.

Shortly after the Le Toux trade was finalized and made official, the Union purchased the full rights to midfielder Roger Torres from America De Cali. It was a re-investment of the teams future, something Nowak wanted to accomplish by moving Le Touxs money and getting some back in return. Nowak also mentioned extending the contracts of current players with the extra payroll.

I believe that we have to understand that the soccer part is completely different than other sports in the US. Soccer is different, Nowak said, alluding to the fact that international teams often lose top players. We made it no secret that were looking to build a franchise around the entire team. A championship team isnt about having the best players, its about having the best team. Thats our philosophy.

A fan favorite and productive striker, Le Toux was a Union original, picked up in the teams inaugural 2009 expansion draft from the Seattle Sounders. From there, the 28-year-old scored 25 goals and 20 assists in 62 games over two seasons, pacing the Union in nearly all on-field records.

His success made him the face of the franchise. Always spending extra time with fans, Le Toux was an integral part of carrying the unknown expansion franchise into the Philadelphia main stream.

From the beginning, he was very recognized and associated with our franchise, thats no secret, said Nowak. He represented our club in a good way, theres no question.

The shocking move comes just one day after the Union lost goaltender and captain Faryd Mondragon, who dissolved his contract with the Union to return to his hometown club in Colombia, Deportivo Cali (see story). But as Colombia takes, it also gives.

The Union are rumored to be in the process of acquiring striker Lionard Pajoy out of Colombian first division club Itagui Ditaires. Pajoy would join Danny Mwanga, Jack McInerney, Josue Martinez and first-round draft pick Chandler Hoffman up front for the Union.

Were going to work toward finding the right guys and providing competition up front, said Nowak. Well let them figure out what to do, help them develop and get ready for the season. Its too early to see who will take control. I dont work in hypothetical world. Im sure they will fulfill the responsibilities and develop.

Le Toux will return to PPL Park on March 31 when the Union host the Whitecaps.

E-mail Ryan Bright at ryanbright13@gmail.com

Union plan to lean on Brian Carroll, who's back in playoffs for 10th time

Union plan to lean on Brian Carroll, who's back in playoffs for 10th time

CHESTER, Pa. — Five years ago, there were few certainties in MLS ... but one of them was Brian Carroll making the playoffs.

From his first season in the league in 2003 all the way through 2011, Carroll’s teams got into the postseason every single year, leading then-Union manager Peter Nowak to quip, on the cusp of Philly’s first-ever postseason game, “That’s why we got him — because he never misses the playoffs.” 

But then things, um, changed.

Carroll himself remained a consistent player for the most part, but all around him, the Union were shook by turbulence, missing out on the playoffs in 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015, sometimes in crushing fashion, other times by a country mile.

Now, five years later, as the Union prepare to return to the postseason with Wednesday’s knockout round matchup in Toronto (7:30 p.m., ESPN2), Carroll is the only Union player left from the team’s last playoff squad in 2011. And you can be sure his playoff streak followed by his playoff drought makes the return trip that much more gratifying for one of the league’s longest-tenured players.

“I had a great run to start my career qualifying for the playoffs, carrying that through up to here,” the 35-year-old midfielder said. “But it hasn’t been easy of late. It’s a great feeling having accomplished that goal of getting back into the playoffs. Now that’s in the past and it’s already about what we can do and how well we can play and try to get a win, try to keep it going.”

With Maurice Edu officially on the shelf until 2017 and Warren Creavalle also nursing an injury, Brian Carroll will likely start in the defensive midfield, just as he did when the Union were swept out of the playoffs by the Houston Dynamo in the 2011 Eastern Conference Semifinals. And he’ll play a critical role, shielding a young backline matching up against a star-studded attack that features two of the league’s top offensive players in Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore.

Perhaps just as importantly, Carroll will bring a veteran, winning presence to the lineup. During his stretch of making the playoffs in nine straight seasons — three shy of the MLS record — he captured championships with D.C. and Columbus, meaning he’s one of the only players on the team who knows what it’s like to win in the MLS postseason.

“Brian has been a guy who’s done it and won championships and lifted trophies,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said. “It was a long absence for him. There are a lot of guys in our locker room that have been in the league for a long time that have never been on a team that’s made the playoffs. It’s a new experience for a lot of guys. Brian will fall in the category of a guy I’ll lean on to talk with those guys and tell them what it’s like, what happens when that first whistle blows — and to really embrace the moment because you never know when you’re gonna be back.”

What will Carroll try to tell the young guys based on his past experiences?

“Everything is more intense,” Carroll said. “Everything is heightened. Just go out there and play without any fear. Play as best we can — connect passes, create chances, make defensive plays, play solid, control your emotions, but use the playoff adrenaline in a positive way. Put everything we have and lay it all out there. It’s one game and you never know what can happen, so hopefully we can go out there and play together and get something done.”

While it’s certainly true anything can happen in an elimination game, it’s also true that few people will think the Union can go up to Canada and beat a Toronto team that, despite stumbling to the finish, remains a top contender to win the MLS Cup. And given the Union’s history and the fact that they’re winless in their last seven games, that will make for an even bigger upset if the Union can return with a victory.

But even if just getting to the playoffs is an accomplishment for the franchise, Carroll knows winning the club’s first-ever playoff game would be a far greater one.

“It’s good to be back in the playoffs,” Carroll said. “We have a chance in the second season to come together and do something that maybe nobody is giving us much of a chance to. We’re going to go up there and do the best we can and enjoy the opportunity. Hopefully we’re able to accomplish something that nobody’s expecting right now.”

Once upon a time, everyone expected Carroll to be in the playoffs. But, as he says, sometimes it’s just as much fun doing things nobody expects.

That can happen Wednesday for a team that’s never won a playoff game and for a player who continues to turn back the clock every day as retirement draws closer and closer.

“It’s never a given,” Carroll said. “It’s a lot more difficult to accomplish this feat with more teams and better competition. But I think it’s a real positive step for our club and a good building block to do what we’ve done in accomplishing [making] the playoffs this year. Now it’s about taking the opportunity as best we can.”

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

Union emotional after Maurice Edu's season-ending injury

CHESTER, Pa. — On the eve of his comeback after missing nearly 13 months with a left tibia stress fracture and other related injuries, Union midfielder Maurice Edu fractured his left fibula on Saturday, keeping him out for the 2016 playoffs and beyond.

“I was trying to take the shot on goal and my foot got stuck in the turf,” Edu said Sunday, in his blue Union-issued suit and supported by crutches. “My ankle rolled and twisted and it kind of snapped a little bit. I heard it crack, and a lot of pain from there. I got a scan afterward, and there was a break.”

There's no timetable his return.

Edu, 30, has spent over a calendar year fighting various injuries that have kept him out of game action. His trouble began on Sept. 30, 2015, when he played through the U.S. Open Cup final with a partially torn groin and sports hernia. It was during Edu’s recovery from those injuries that he developed a stress fracture.

"A little bit frustration. A lot of frustration, to be honest," he said. "But all I can do now is get back to work, focus on the positives and make sure that my situation isn’t a distraction from the team."

Edu’s teammates were equally devastated by the news. Edu, the Union captain when healthy, is popular and well-respected in the locker room.

"I feel so bad for him," said Alejandro Bedoya, who wore a dedication to Edu under his jersey on Sunday. "He’s one of my good friends, so I was looking forward to playing alongside him. I know how hard he’s worked to get back, and to see him go out like that, it’s heartbreaking. I’m sad for his loss and I hope he stays strong."

Edu, who has been with the Union since 2014, returned to training in July and played three conditioning appearances with the Union’s USL team, Bethlehem Steel FC. He was on the bench for the Union’s last three games and was set to make his first appearance in over a year against the New York Red Bulls on Sunday, a game the Union eventually lost, 2-0 (see game story).

"We’re gutted for Mo," Union manager Jim Curtin said. "He was slated to start today. It’s real upsetting because he’s worked so hard to get back on the field. It’s been a tough 2016 for him, but I know he’ll come back stronger."

While he was visibly shaken by recent injury, Edu is driven to return.

"What happened, happened," Edu said. "I have no control over that. The only thing I do have control over is my next steps from here, how I prepare myself mentally and emotionally and how I continue to support this group."