Sebastien Le Toux. Ever since his hat trick performance in the franchise's home opener, that name has been synonymous with the Philadelphia Union and quality. His 54 goals in all competitions is a mile ahead of any other player in the team's brief history. He has nearly that many assists as well. He loves Philadelphia, and Philadelphia loves him.
There's just one big problem.
Le Toux turns 32 years old in January. The Union, who are in desperate need of a talent upgrade, might need to project ahead to their star's future and determine if he can be productive enough in 2016. It's well documented that offensive players see dramatic reductions in productivity after they turn 30 years of age. This thorough analysis by Goal Impact shows the trend of soccer player productivity. Here is the resulting graph from that analysis:
Le Toux has begun that steep decline. So far he's weathered the decline fairly well. Here is a plot of his goals and assists since joining the Union in 2010 when he was 26 years of age.
He appears to have re-peaked in 2014 but five of those goals were from penalty kicks, contributing to what might be an aberration. Following the Goal Impact trend we might expect to see a decline of productivity of around 10% off his peak performance. In that case, his peak was 26 goals and assists meaning a reasonable expectation would be for his 2015 number of 14 to drop to around 11 or 12 in 2016. It's reasonable to expect that his defense will slip by a similar amount as well.
For that kind of production we need to stare pretty hard at his base salary of $275,000 which will increase in 2016 if signed. Right now top clubs playing the 4-2-3-1 are getting much better production that what's projected for Le Toux's position from the likes of Fabian Castillo ($145K), Ethan Finlay ($135K), Lloyd Sam ($230K), and Justin Meram ($165K), just to name a handful.
Can the Union afford to pay Le Toux as much as they are given the expected production in 2016? Can the Union even afford to have him as a luxury off the bench? It may be unfair to expect the Union to find a player the caliber of those just listed for those prices. They may not be able to match the productivity but if they can save that money for a different need, that might be wise to do.
Fans probably aren't ready to see Le Toux head off into the Philadelphia sunset just yet, but the price might be too high for that kind of nostalgic trip. The Union need to change and to take risks. Is this a change to make?
What would you do?