While 99 percent of Union fans place all the blame at the feet of Piotr Nowak and the Union Front Office- there are reasons that shouldn't be the case and other "Groups" that are also to blame, to differing degrees.
First- let me say that I am upset that we have lost LeToux. He was an important part of the last 2 years, and almost single-handedly made us worth watching in our first year (almost). He brings goals and assists to the lineup, along with an amazing work ethic, and I’ve never seen a sportsman do more for the fans than Sebastien.
I also remember his struggles at the start of this year. Whether that was down to carrying an injury, loss of confidence in front of goal, or a new system we will never know. I also remember that Danny Mwanga can provide goals, that last season; Jack McInerney had the most goals per minute in the team. I remember Carlos Ruiz being the main goal scorer early this season, and not LeToux.
While all those don’t take away from the work that Seba has done for us – it does show that he is replaceable on the field. Going forward, we have 2 forwards that we already know and love that will be chomping at the bit to get goals. We have 2 new signings that have been confirmed (Martinez and Hoffman) that will be trying to prove they are worth giving a starting spot to. There may be 1 or 2 more signings that are in the works that mean that hey – maybe we don’t need Seba on the field.
That should take care of his goals (and hopefully Seba passed on his perfect penalty technique to someone before he left). To replace his assists? Step up Roger Torres (signed with Seba money) and Freddy Adu. I will be brave here, and predict Freddy has a fantastic first half of the season, good enough to earn his 2nd chance at Europe. I never thought of him as being a long-term signing.
I always viewed him as coming here to get back to Europe, and have no problem with that. Last year, whether injury or lack of effort, he didn’t show he deserved to go – and he is still with us. I think he will be hungry enough (If given the chance) to lead the league in assists by the time summer comes, and Rayo (or a bigger team) come knocking, with more allocation money and we wave bye bye to Freddy. At that point – Roger will take over and show why we have spent the money on him.
That’s Seba’s on field "counting statistics" covered. Now for his on field hustle. I’m not one for all out energy being vital; I’d rather have someone with ability than a "headless chicken". Therefore if nobody takes over that job then I'm not worried, as long as we work well as a team. For "On field fan favorite" – look no further than new signing Gabriel Gomez to be the "hero". From what I’ve heard of him – he is everything a "Philadelphia fan" would want (as was LeToux). While I doubt he will be able to run around like LeToux for 90minutes, I think he will make us forget the hustle.
The other part of Seba’s "magic" is his non-stop giving to the fans. I remember staying for hours after the last game of the first season, just to get Seba’s autograph. I got it – although I am sure that the Union staff that wanted to get everyone in didn’t like being told that everyone was going to have an autograph. Yes we will miss that, but that isn’t really important – and it isn’t like the rest of the team ignores us. The Union players are all amazing at interacting with the fans, and all do as much as they can to satisfy our demands. They even sing happy birthday to us when they lose a bet…..
That’s why I don’t think we will miss LeToux as much as we think we will right now. The last thing that Seba did for us was net a big "allocation amount" that will be spent on Roger Torres and (from reading between the lines) Sheanon Williams for a few years. I’ll take that "trade" every single time. What I won’t miss however, are the wasted free kicks and poor corners that LeToux seemed to produce more often than not. I’m not having a go at him, but just want to point out that things aren’t 100% rosy with his play.
As for the "Blame Game," it wasn’t a nice way for this all to go down. It happened; we have to deal with that. While it isn’t a nice way for anyone to find out they were traded – this is the new age where news travels fast, and doing it face to face might be "gazumped" by reading it on Twitter.
It isn’t as though this could have been a surprise anyway – from a week ago I had resigned to losing LeToux. While it was hard for LeToux to take, it is also how the sports world goes. I’m not going to go into the blame game for who made the "mistakes" in not getting a new contract signed, or for how much, or how much it would have taken for the Union to make Seba a "DOOPER" for life. That is irrelevant now. IT didn’t happen and that’s that.
However – I will spread a little bit of the blame around. While it would be perfect for Seba to be here forever – there are valid reasons it didn’t happen.
- He likely cost too much. Whether it was $200,000 or $400,000 that he was wanting, if the Union couldn't fit that into budget without hurting us, they shouldn't try to. There is a salary cap in MLS and we have to make sure we are under that.
- We have too many strikers at the club right now, some of them have to go. In MLS you only have a certain amount of roster space, and while it would be nice to have 40 players, we can't.
Right there are 2 reasons, and whose fault are they? MLS. Now I am not saying that MLS Should change their rules to have no salary cap or extend the amount of players on the roster. With few reserve games, and no "2nd teams" in MLS I don’t think you can have 40 – or people will stagnate. I also think it is a good idea to keep everything as even as possible, which the salary cap does. In future, increasing the cap will be good – but that is a long way in the future.
The last reason I am going into for why MLS themselves should take some blame in the whole situation - they actually own the players rights. This is something I was thinking of a while back, and wondered if MLS owning the players rights violates FIFA’s 3rd party ownership rule that got West Ham in trouble a few years back (Tevezgate no. 1). Apparently it doesn’t, but I don’t like that fact.
The worst thing that it does is that the players have no say in where they play. Yes they play in MLS, but if Seba wants to stay in Philly and not play for the Whitecaps, then that should be his choice. As it is, the Union didn’t want to wait and see if we would lose him for nothing, and didn’t want to maybe block others from playing. All they had to do was find another team, and offload LeToux. They are perfectly within their rights, just like Montreal were perfectly within their rights to chose Brian Ching in the expansion draft, and just like Ching, LeToux has no say.
If that wasn’t the case, as it is with any other league in the world (that I am aware of), then LeToux would have to agree to personal terms with Vancouver before he was traded. He has the right to decide where he plays his career, and there are no more articles of him being upset at not being told he was traded.
All in all, while I don’t think we will miss LeToux this year, I think that some of the hatred for our front office should be sent MLS’s way. After all, it is their rules that both permit and force the union front office to act in the way they did.
Lets all get behind the Union. Like it or not – these things can and do happen in all sports all around the world. The one thing that will not change (unless we allow it to happen) is that we have a Soccer team in the area to support, love, cry over, and eventually (soon) celebrate winning a championship with.
Jungite aut Perite.