Sebastien Le Toux shines against Sounders; is season slipping away?
Sounders FC, 4-7-3 after Sunday's 3-1 loss in Philadelphia, needs to turn things around soon.
Seattle Times staff columnist
CHESTER, Pa. — For 90 minutes, in the daunting heat and humidity, Sebastien Le Toux ran.
When others around him were wilting, Le Toux kept running through the thick air, kept moving his legs even as the 90-plus degree heat sucked the energy out of the players around him.
On a day made for iced tea and AC., Le Toux sprinted up and down the lush new pitch of his new home, PPL Park, tormenting his former teammates.
In Philadelphia's 3-1 win Sunday over Sounders FC, Le Toux was the most dangerous player on the pitch.
He converted a penalty kick early in the second half to tie the score at 1-1, assisted on Fred's go-ahead goal in the 79th minute and made the cross that led to the final Philly goal from Danny Mwanga in the 84th minute.
"Sebastien was the difference today for them," Sounders keeper Kasey Keller said after the 3-1 loss. "He showed the tremendous amount of work rate he has. He stepped up and scored a tremendous penalty."
In weather that could have given an athlete a dozen reasons to quit, Le Toux never stopped running. He showed the Sounders that they made a grave error exposing him to the expansion draft. He is exactly the jolt of energy this uncertain side needs.
"That (running) is the strength of his game," Keller said. "Those guys, you love to have them on your team. Chris Henderson was one of those players. Frankie Hejduk was one of those players. The kind of guys that you just know are going to go and go and go and there's no doubt about it.
"We miss him, there's no doubt about it. That's the tricky part about the whole expansion draft. He made the difference today."
After Pat Noonan had scored for the Sounders in the 44th minute, Le Toux, a fan favorite in Seattle's inaugural season, scored on a penalty kick 10 minutes later, hammered into the upper left corner of the goal.
It seemed the ball always was on his foot, in space and he always made something dangerous out of his chances.
In the 79th minute, after Keller had made a spectacular save on Cristian Arrieta's header, Le Toux, running down the right side, crossed a ball that skipped past three Sounders onto the foot of Fred, who easily beat Keller.
Five minutes later, relentless as the heat, Le Toux, playing midfield instead of his customary forward position, started a run that ended with another cross to Mwanga.
Keller saved Mwanga's first blast, but couldn't scramble to the ball in time to save Mwanga's rebound shot.
"Regardless of what the climate is, Seba's strength has always been his fitness and his ability to run off the ball," midfielder Peter Vagenas said. "But for us, the weather was a real hurdle today."
The expansion Union dominated this first game in their sparkling soccer-specific stadium on the banks of the Delaware River. Except for some acrobatic work from Keller, the final score could have been 6-1.
For the Sounders (4-7-3), this loss to Philadelphia, which had won only twice in 10 previous games, is an alarm that should tell them this season is slipping away.
"I'm never a guy who's going to say it's desperate," coach Sigi Schmid said. "You gotta believe you're going to win."
But the Galaxy is lurking on Sunday in Los Angeles and before that, the Sounders begin defense of their U.S. Open Cup in Portland on Wednesday.
It's time to feel the urgency.
"It's far too late (to say it's still early)," Keller said. "We need to build some momentum and turn it around fast. I think we've put a little bit too much on the shoulders of Nate (Jaqua) and Blaise (Nkufo) saying that once they get here, everything will change.
"We're still leaking goals and it's frustrating and we're all frustrated. I mean, it's the same guys, except for Sebastien and Stephen King, who did it last year, so from that standpoint you say, 'Yes we have the talent.' But it's been the consistency of our inconsistency that's really hurt us."
The Sounders, once again, missed yawning opportunities, a theme of this season.
Just five minutes after Le Toux's penalty kick conversion, Noonan had a chance to give the Sounders a 2-1 lead, but his PK attempt was smothered by Union keeper Chris Seitz. The Sounders are 0-3 on penalty kicks in their short history.
And just minutes after he entered the game for the first time this season, Jaqua had a scoring opportunity, but couldn't lift his shot over a sliding Seitz.
In the second half, the heat index on the field was 106 and eventually, the Sounders unraveled in the swelter.
"We kind of melted down," Keller said.
And Le Toux kept running.
"He's a guy who loves to run," forward Steve Zakuani said. "We expect that out of him. Going into the game, we knew he was going to do it. And he came out and did it."
Sebastien Le Toux did it and did in the Sounders.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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