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Monday, September 21, 2015

"It's a good thing": Sebastien Le Toux on his 50-50 club ascension

Sebastien Le Toux, seen against Orlando City Aug. 8,
notched his 50th career MLS assist Sunday. (AP)
Sebastien Le Toux’s longevity in MLS has one bothersome side effect: As he continues to collect accolades, people insist on asking him about them.

To be sure, the Frenchman isn’t concerned about where he stands with regard to history. Those facts and figures don’t impact his daily routines. But they are starting to stack up.

In Sunday’s 2-0 win over Houston, Le Toux added another to the mix: Membership in MLS’ 50 goal-50 assist club.

Le Toux’s reaction was predictable, his customary mix of congeniality and polite dismissiveness.

“It’s a good thing,” he said. “I’m proud about it. It’s a great achievement for me personally. Like I said with everything I’m doing in my career, I’ll look at it probably after when I’m done playing and I can say I did this in my time in MLS. It’s great and I’m very happy.

“I know lots of you guys talked about it even before my 50th goal. Now it’s done so we can move on and talk about something else. It’s great. I just hope to continue to get goals and assists.”

Le Toux has bagged plenty of honors, including the distinction as the leading scorer in the modern era of the U.S. Open Cup. This latest addition to the CV is one of the most impressive.

Le Toux is the 16th player in MLS history with 50 goals and 50 assists in league play. He’s one of only two active players in the group, joining Houston’s Brad Davis, who was on the field when Le Toux slipped a pass into Tranquillo Barnetta in the third minute Sunday for the Swiss midfielder to score his first MLS goal.

Here’s the full list:

Ronald Cerritos 71-57
Marc Chung 61-76
Jeff Cunningham 134-70
Brad Davis 54-120
Dwayne De Rosario 104-77
Landon Donovan 144-136
Chris Henderson 51-80
Cobi Jones 70-91
Jason Kreis 108-74
Sebastien Le Toux 50-52
Clint Mathis 61-52
Brian McBride 80-52
Jaime Moreno 133-102
Preki 79-112
Steve Ralston 76-135
Ante Razov 114-66

That’s a frighteningly select fraternity, and it speaks to how daunting the prospect of being so consistently prolific is. Le Toux, 31, has amassed his totals over 211 MLS games for four teams. He was part of two expansion teams (Seattle in 2009, the Union in 2010) and infamously spent 2012 in exile from Philly with Vancouver and New York.

Le Toux has played 150 games with the Union, scoring 46 goals and 45 assists and leading the franchise in all three categories.

There are few prospective additions to the club on the horizon – Davy Arnaud (50 goals, 46 assists) is presumably next, while Robbie Keane (68-42) and Javier Morales (45-76) have realistic chances.

But think about it the variation in the skill set required for this benchmark. Archetypal center forwards have had the most success in MLS’ first two decades, and for such players, assists are usually accidental. The top two active scorers – Chris Wondolowski (108 goals, 21 assists) and Edson Buddle (100-30) – are barely in the 50-50 club combined. Conor Casey (71-24) shows a similar spread in finishing vs. distributing.

For the midfielders on the list, goals are often the biggest challenge. Several in the group have fewer than 50 run-of play goals. Davis, for instance, benefits from 16 penalty-kick goals, while Le Toux has 12 from the spot.

To tally goals and assists in such lockstep speaks to Le Toux’s varied skillset. He’s always been tough to classify positionally, defying neat and simple boxes. Is he a midfielder who can score? Is he a forward who can pass? Is he just a moderately-skilled player whose engine never stops and who racks up stats by attrition and sheer force of will?

However you want to tally up his style points, there’s no quibbling with Le Toux’s output in a results-oriented business. And perhaps part of that is his serial unwillingness to look at the counter as it ticks every upward.

He required a reminder from fans on Twitter that his goal against New York Aug. 1 represented the 50th of his MLS career. His reaction, then and now, was simple.

“It’s nice,” Le Toux said after the Red Bulls game, “but it’s just something for you to talk about, the media.”

His self-deprecating parting shot Sunday was similarly acerbic.

“It’s not important. It’s not like I’m Sebastian Giovinco,” Le Toux said, referencing the Toronto forward. “I’m just Sebastien Le Toux.”

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