For the third time in his career, Sébastien Le Toux was back in Chester signing a contract with the Philadelphia Union on Tuesday.
But unlike the previous two times, this contract was only ceremonial. A way for him to officially close his playing career with the team he loves and for the fanbase that fell in love with him even before he completed his hat trick in a 3-2 win over D.C. United in the first ever Union home game.
“Sorry for my bad English, especially when I cry it’s not good at all,” Le Toux said during a tearful press conference at the TruMark Financial Club at Talen Energy Stadium on Tuesday.
Le Toux’s press conference was the first of two events the club is holding to honor their beloved former star. On June 23, he’ll become the first player inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor.
“My heart it’s here,” Le Toux said Tuesday. “It’s how I felt since the first game when I scored the hat trick at Lincoln Financial and all the connection I made here. I met my wife who is from here, I have lots of family now from here. Everything bring me back here, not just the soccer part but everything else.”
Le Toux said he plans to do private coaching, work with a pharmaceutical company as a spokesman and help with his wife’s home-staging company. He said he will also stay connected to the club by working with the front office and will continue to support the team in any way he can.
“I’m kind of like a fan but a closer fan because I know who they are,” Le Toux said. “It’s just who I will be for the rest of my life.”
Club staff and former teammates filled out the crowd at Tuesday’s press conference, which far outnumbered the attendance at the press conference when he signed his first MLS deal with Seattle Sounders (Le Toux said he remembered three journalists were present).
Le Toux made stops in Seattle, Vancouver, New Jersey and Colorado over his 10 seasons in the league, making 28 appearances in MLS for the Sounders after he played in 47 games with the team in USL. He made 175 appearances in his two stints in Chester.
“He loved this town, had an instant bond with the fans in this town,” head coach Jim Curtin said. “It wasn’t just the goals that he scored or the assists. It was the little things like sticking around until the stadium was almost empty, signing every autograph, taking every picture.”
The connection Le Toux had with the fans from the early days of the club can’t be understated. While his stats — 50 goals and 50 assists during his time with the Union — are impressive, the way he embraced the fan base and the city will be his lasting legacy.
“He showed me how much a player can actually care, not just about the team, but its fans and city,” said Heather Reppert, who wrote about her appreciation for Le Toux in a Brotherly Game tribute back in 2016.
Le Toux acknowledged the fan response to his retirement announcement.
“Thank you very much to all of you and to all the fans (for) all the greatness that I had on social media, in phone call and text message yesterday and today.” Le Toux said. “I’m beyond happy and I’m just very thankful.”