Red Bulls’ newcomer Le Toux scores in debut

RBNY makes changes in 2-2 tie with Seattle; starts three-game home stand

It was a wild and crazy 48-hour span for the newest member of the New York Red Bulls, namely former MLS All-Star Sebastien Le Toux.

Last Thursday, Le Toux was training with the Vancouver Whitecaps, preparing for a game this weekend. A day later, LeToux was packing up his belongings and flying clear across the country, after getting traded to the Red Bulls in exchange for popular midfielder Dane Richards.

ìThe last two days have gone by so fast that I didnít even have a chance to think about it,î said LeToux, an MLS All-Star performer for the Philadelphia Union. ìMy mind was really off. It was pretty crazy. Thatís part of the league. It was weird and fast.î

Le Toux, known for his goal-scoring ability, didnít waste any time making his presence felt with his new team. He scored a goal in his first game with his new club in the Red Bullsí 2-2 tie with the Seattle Sounders Sunday at sweltering Red Bull Arena.

ìIt felt good to get a goal in my new uniform,î said Le Toux, who scored 25 goals in the last two seasons with Philadelphia. ìIt would have been nice to get a win. But Iím glad to be with the Red Bulls. Iím pretty lucky to be here and to be with this team now. Iíll just try to do whatever the coach (Hans Backe) asks me to do. Iím happy he believes in me. Itís a great opportunity for me.î

The trade for Le Toux means that RBNY will more than likely utilize a three-forward attack from here on, with Le Toux joining Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper up front.

ìI think with more balance in the midfield, itís possible that it will work,î Backe said. ìBut we need more box-to-box play in the midfield to keep them out there.î

Red Bulls sporting director and general manager Erik Soler spoke about the Le Toux/Richards trade before Sundayís match. Soler knew that giving up Richards was going to be tough, considering he had the most seniority on the team, having played six seasons with the club since he was drafted in 2007.

ìWhen you trade a player like Dane, there are a lot of emotions,î Soler explained. ìItís hard, because we all loved Dane. He was a true professional and a great guy. But we knew he would probably leave us (for Europe, as has been rumored) at the end of the year. We had a chance to bring Sebastien in right now to help us. We knew what Sebastien could do. We had been working on getting him for a while.

Iím pretty confident Sebastien will do well here. We wanted to do something different, get more feel with our attack.î

Soler believes that Le Toux can help out at both forward and midfield.

ìHe has the capacity to play both if we needed it,î Soler said. ìHe definitely gives us a lot of options. Iíll leave the decisions to Hans.î

Le Toux likes the idea of playing with both Henry and Cooper, two of the leagueís top scorers. Cooper is second in goals scored with 11, while Henry is fifth with nine.

ìTo get the chance to play with top players is great for me,î Le Toux said. ìI think weíre going to be able to make progress with them in the future. When I was younger, I used to watch Henry play in France. Heís a great guy and a great player. Itís going to be easy for me to play with these players.î

Le Toux wasnít the only Red Bull newcomer to make his debut Sunday. Bill Gaudette, also acquired in a trade Friday, this deal with the Los Angeles Galaxy, was in goal for the Red Bulls, after it was learned rookie sensation Ryan Meara has a hip injury. Gaudette, who trained with the Red Bulls in 2010 and almost signed a contract, was glad to be back.

ìGetting the start here is pretty incredible,î said Gaudette, who made three saves, two of which were spectacular stops. ìItís a pretty exciting day. It all happened pretty quickly. I got the phone call, packed what I could and got on the flight here. I would have liked to have a better result in my first game. I was almost a part of this team two years ago, but Iím excited to help this team as much as I can now.î

Meara had been in goal for all 18 prior Red Bulls matches this season.

Seattle got on the scoreboard first in the 16th minute, when Johansson made a perfect crossing pass from 45 yards out to a sliding Alvaro Fernandez, who pushed the ball past Gaudette for a 1-0 lead. Johanssonís left footed cross from the right sideline went over the head of Red Bull defender Brandon Barklage directly to Fernandezís right foot.

The Red Bulls then tied the score in the 24th minute when Le Toux scored.

Cooper unleashed a wicked blast from just outside the penalty area that Seattle net minder Bryan Meredith stopped, but Le Toux alertly followed and kicked it home for his fifth goal of the season.

ìKenny got off a pretty strong shot,î LeToux said. ìI knew that if the keeper didnít get it, I had a chance to get to it. I was lucky to have the rebound come to my direction and I put it in the back of the net.î

The Red Bulls had a chance to take the lead right before halftime, when Henryís corner kick was headed by Markus Holgersson, but the attempt clanked off the crossbar as time expired in the first half, keeping the match tied at 1-1.

ìI should have scored on that one,î Holgersson said. ìThereís no excuse there. It was a perfect pass.î

The Red Bulls had the better scoring chances in the early going of the second half and in fact took a 2-1 lead. After Henry was stopped on a direct free kick attempt in the 49th minute and rookie Connor Lade just missed on a left-footed shot in the 52nd minute, the Red Bulls jumped in front on a fine play from Joel Lindpere.

Lindpere took a feed from Barklage, then faked out former Red Bulls defender Jeff Parke to unleash a left-footed blast from 25 yards out in the 61st minute to give New York a 2-1 lead.

The Red Bulls had a great scoring chance in the 74th minute, when Dax McCartyís header off a Henry corner kick beat Meredith, but an alert Johansson was standing on the goal line to kick the shot aside.

Backe was pleased with the effort, but disappointed with the result.

ìWe made it too easy for them,î Backe said. ìWe gave them too many chances in the second half after we took the lead.î

The game was the first of three straight at Red Bull Arena. They play a rare Wednesday afternoon game against Chicago, with kickoff at 1 p.m. With the temperatures expected in the 90s, itís a starting time that does not please Backe.

ìIíve questioned that starting time since I saw the schedule in February,î Backe said. ìIt shouldnít be allowed to play 1 p.m. with the temperature around 96-to-98 degrees. You canít play for 90 minutes in conditions like that.î

ìWednesday, maybe we can pray for rain or something,î Lade said.

ìThe weather was awful today,î Holgersson said. ìItís going to be crazy Wednesday. We have to take it a little easy out there. The game will be a little slow.î

The Red Bulls also play Philadelphia Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. Itís a stretch where the Red Bulls have to take advantage of having three straight home matches.

The Observer Staff