Freddy Adu, one of the most recognizable players in Major League Soccer, will appear tonight at CenturyLink Field.
So will Sebastien Le Toux, in a homecoming of one of the most popular players ever to wear a Sounders crest.
However, neither player has been featured in Sounders FC’s advertising and promotion for this match against the Philadelphia Union. And that reflects a philosophical approach the Sounders front office takes with most visiting teams, even when they arrive with stars whose names could cause an upward tick at most MLS turnstiles.
“We’re lucky enough to be in a market that understands the game, understands that it’s a team sport, is more concerned with how our players play as a team, and are more concerned with how our team does than who the visitors are,” general manager Adrian Hanauer said. “It’s a lucky situation because it doesn’t require us promoting stars, whether they’re on our team or an opposing team.”
While the marketing department feels the freedom to ignore Adu and Le Toux, the Sounders themselves don’t have that luxury.
Le Toux, especially, has been sizzling recently with nine goals over his last nine games. That brings his season total to 10, tied for 10th in MLS. He also has eight assists, tied for seventh in the league.
“We know the ability that he has, his speed,” Sounders defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado said through a translator. “We know that he has a smell for the goal, and we just have to do our best to keep an eye on him and defend him.”
The Sounders know that firsthand because Le Toux used to be one of them.
Le Toux was the first player to sign a Sounders FC contract, and he appeared in 28 games in Seattle’s expansion season.
Then he was taken by Philadelphia in the expansion draft. And during his first season in the Union’s navy blue and gold, he blossomed into a star, recording 14 goals and 11 assists and being named to the 2010 MLS First XI.
“It’s always distressing and a little bit sad when one of the family leaves,” Hanauer said. “In some cases it gives the guy a fresh start and maybe an opportunity that might not have existed in the current organization. Sebastien obviously has flourished in Philly.”
Adu became a celebrity even outside of the soccer community in 2004 when he signed a contract with D.C. United as a 14-year-old. Two weeks later, he became the youngest player to score a goal in MLS.
However, he didn’t consistently build on that promising start and left MLS four seasons and 11 goals later.
After playing overseas from 2007-2011, he returned to the league this season. Now 22, he has one goal and one assist in eight appearances with the Union, including four starts.
“Freddy Adu is a player who I think is still a little bit of a wild card in our league,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s capable of doing some very good things with the ball. He’s technically very clean. … He’s a good player who’s got a good first two steps. But I think he’s still finding his way into the rhythm of their team a little bit.”
PHILADELPHIA UNION (10-7-14; 44 PTS) AT SOUNDERS FC (16-6-9; 57)
7 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: KONG 6/16. RADIO: 97.3-FM.
CLUB LEADERS: For Philadelphia – G 10, Sebastien Le Toux; A 8, Le Toux; S 77, Le Toux; SOG 28, Le Toux; GAA 1.06, Faryd Mondragon. For Seattle – G 11, Fredy Montero; A 12, Mauro Rosales; S 99 Montero; SOG 40, Montero; GAA 1.06, Kasey Keller.
HEAD TO HEAD: The series is tied, 1-1-1. The Sounders won the only meeting in Seattle, 2-0. The clubs played to a 1-1 draw April 16 at Philadelphia.
NOTES: A win or draw by the Sounders would assure them of no worse than second place in the Western Conference. However, anything less than a win would eliminate them from the Supporters’ Shield race. Philadelphia is one point behind Kansas City for the Eastern Conference lead with one game in hand. … These teams have one loss over their past 10 games combined: Sounders, 4-1; Union, 2-0-3. … Seattle is 8-3-4 at home; Philly is 3-6-6 on the road. … Le Toux, who went from Seattle to Philadelphia in the expansion draft, has scored nine goals over the past nine games. He was named MLS player of the month for September. … Mondragon is questionable due to a fractured finger. He would be replaced by rookie Zac MacMath, who has a 1.23 GAA in seven appearances. … Montero is out because of yellow-card accumulation. Osvaldo Alonso and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado are one caution away from a similar one-game suspension. … This game was originally scheduled for July 23, and was postponed to accommodate Philadelphia’s participation in the World Football Challenge. Tickets for that date will be honored today.
NEXT: The Sounders play their final MLS regular-season home game Oct. 15 against San Jose.
Don Ruiz, staff writer