It remains to be seen if the Red Bulls “French Connection” leads to an MLS Cup, but it was a promising start for Sebastian Le Toux in his debut with the Red Bulls. The French forward scored the Red Bulls first goal of the game in the 24th minute in a 2-2 tie with Seattle at Red Bull Arena on Sunday afternoon.
Le Toux was part of a Friday night deal that sent Dane Richards and allocation money to Vancouver. The longest tenured player on New York’s roster, Richards was a 2007 second-round pick who had 21 goals and 26 assists during that stretch and became known for his speed down the flank. But this season his speed wasn’t enough to see off a dip in form and LeToux, who was an MLS Best XI selection last year, was seen as a better fit for the team.
Midway through the first half, Le Toux followed up on a Kenny Cooper shot from distance to tap in his first goal as a Red Bull. Le Toux fought off jet lag and a lack of familiarity with his teammates to put in a solid performance in his first match with his new team.
“My mind was kind of really off tonight, but I’m very happy to score my first in my new uniform,” Le Toux said. “Just disappointed we didn’t win tonight.”
Richards was a pivotal part of the team, especially during the last two seasons under head coach Hans Backe. The Jamaican international had been important to the offense in helping to stretch the field and get in behind the defense. Despite being a fan favorite, New York felt it was time to move on from Richards.
“We wanted to try something different, get some fresh air in the attacking part of the game. Sebastian is more of an attacker that can play up front where Dane is a natural right-sided midfielder,” sporting director Erik Soler said. “They are two different players and we believe that for us, there was more value in getting Sebastian in at the moment.”
The move for Le Toux signals the end, for now at least, of forward Luke Rodgers. Currently in England, Rodgers scored nine goals for New York last year but has been unable to obtain a visa for re-entry. Bringing in Le Toux shows that the Red Bulls see the odds of Rodgers returning as a longshot.
What the Red Bulls newest attacking option does bring is speed and a good scoring touch. He will be called on to play off of team captain and designated player Thierry Henry, who starred for the French national team. He is also a dead ringer for Cooper, to the point that he has begun to be referred to as “Mini Cooper.” It is somewhat ironic that Cooper helped set up Le Toux’s first goal in New York.
“It was great, I thanked him,” Le Toux said. “I hope I can return the favor soon.”
Follow Red Bulls beat writer Kristian Dyer on Twitter @KristianRDyer for breaking news and live updates from practice.