The script was all but written, but somewhere along the line someone lost the plot.
Saturday was to be Sebastien Le Toux’s glorious return to Philadelphia, the city he represented with distinction as a member of the Union for two seasons, scoring 25 goals and adding 20 assists.
Going in to the City of Brotherly Love with his new team, the Vancouver Whitecaps, Le Toux was flying high as part of an undefeated squad which had claimed seven points from a possible nine.
The French forward told reporters ahead of the match that he had nothing to prove to a team which traded him for allocation money this offseason when the sides couldn’t agree a contract extension.
And while that may be true, given the circumstances of his departure, Le Toux surely wanted to show up Union boss Peter Nowak.
According to Le Toux, Nowak sent him out on an unwanted trial to Bolton Wanderers after contract negotiations stalled, and when he was eventually traded to Vancouver, it was an assistant and not Nowak himself who told him he’d be leaving town.
Given that backstory, Le Toux’s missed chances on Saturday – specifically his shot over the bar in the 82nd minute, when he was clear through on goal – hurt.
“I’m very disappointed with myself,” Le Toux told reporters after the game. “You know I wanted to put my team winning today and get the win here and unfortunately we didn’t. I had the two biggest chances on the team. I have to be better. I’m really very disappointed about them.”
It’s a sideshow Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie seems happy for Le Toux to put behind him.
“I do think it’s good for him to get this game out of the way early in the season,” Rennie said after the match. “It’s obviously a big game for him. He was a fantastic player for the Philadelphia Union and I believe he’ll be a great player for the Whitecaps as well. [Philadelphia] is a hard-working city and people love hard-working people and Sebastien, you don’t get much harder working than he is and we’re very glad to have him."
“His work rate is phenomenal and I think that’s had a big impact on our team -- make them work hard and follow suit from what he’s done," Rennie added. "I think, as I said, it’ll be good for him to have gotten this game out of the way now. He won’t be playing in Philadelphia for a while, so he can get on with what he’s good at and I look forward to him as we build our group.”
Le Toux, like his team, is working hard. But at times over the past three matches it has seemed a struggle for the player and his teammates in midfield and in the offensive third. The 28-year-old hasn't scored since the fourth minute on opening day.
As for his team? Well, in their last win, three games ago, the ‘Caps only managed a set-piece goal against the run of play after holding just 35.4 percent possession. The team has followed up that performance with two scoreless draws in which the offense created little in the way of quality opportunities – indeed the ‘Caps failed to record a single shot on target in either of those matches.
Rennie suggested a potential turnaround up front won’t be up to him, but rather it’s the players who need to step up if the goals are to start flowing.
“If you’re not scoring goals, that’s always a frustrating thing,” Rennie said. “But this is the third team that I’ve built and I’ve been through this process before where it takes a little bit to get that clicking and I’m not concerned about it in that regard. I know what it takes and how that comes together, so it doesn’t always happen right away.
“It often requires an individual guy or maybe two guys to take the bull by the horns and we haven’t quite found that yet but I do think that it will come.”