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Big Apple, big weapons

The Sounders FC prepare to face a New York Red Bull side that has a number of offensive threats including newly acquired former Sounder Sebastien Le Toux.

The New York Red Bulls have been one of the top-scoring teams in Major League Soccer all season.

With Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper scoring goals at a tremendous clip through their first 13 matches, the Red Bulls were the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. They have since cooled, with Cooper going scoreless in the last five matches and Henry limited to just three appearances in the last ten matches, leaving him without a goal since April 28.

Just 1-2-2 in their last five matches, the Red Bulls have now added former Sounder Sebastien Le Toux to the mix, adding the Frenchman in a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps in exchange for speedy midfielder Dane Richards on Friday.

“They’ve got a stacked team. Le Toux’s speed and tireless work-ethic is huge,” Sounders FC defender Jeff Parke said. “They add a good player and it only makes their team a little bit stronger.”

Le Toux came to the Sounders in the USL in 2007 and was USL MVP as he helped Seattle to the best record in the league and the USL championship. Prior to the 2008 season, he was the first player signed by the MLS side, later joined by Kasey Keller, Sanna Nyassi and Freddie Ljungberg before the conclusion of the final USL season, with he and Nyassi playing for the USL team on loan before the inaugural MLS season in 2009.

After one season with the Sounders FC, he went to the Philadelphia Union in the expansion draft. He played two seasons there, earning MLS Best XI honors after tallying 14 goals and 11 assist in 2010, following that up with 11 goals and nine assists in 2011. He started this year in training camp with the Union, but was soon traded to the Whitecaps. In Vancouver he had four goals in 19 appearances, but was dealt to New York, presumably to make room for another forward signing to pair with Eric Hassli.

“He has the flexibility to play up front or wide right for them,” said Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid, who coached Le Toux in Seattle in 2009. “It will be interesting to see how they put it together on the field and what formation they play.”

Le Toux joins a team that has 32 goals in 18 matches, but has managed more than one goal only once in their last six matches.

For as good as they have been on the offensive side, New York has been equally bad, at times, defensively. Only three teams in the league have allowed more than the 27 goals that the Red Bulls have let in and they may be dealing with a change at the goalkeeper position.

“They’re a good team offensively and a very dangerous team offensively. We’ve got to be aware of that and know that they’re a good possession team,” Schmid said. “We have to take advantage of the other end of the field because they’ve given up goals.”

Rookie goalkeeper Ryan Meara has just three shutouts and allows 1.5 goals per game and has been limited in training this week with a hip injury.

New York traded earlier this week to acquire Bill Gaudette from the LA Galaxy, the goalkeeper on the night when Seattle topped LA 2-0 at CenturyLink Field on May 2.

Meanwhile, Seattle may see the return of goalkeeper Michael Gspurning for Sunday’s game. Out since May 2 with a hip injury, Gspurning is back in full training and may feature for the Sounders in their last match of the regular season against an Eastern Conference foe.

“He’s right about there. He’s very close,” Schmid said. “We’ll talk about it tonight and decide what we’re going to do tomorrow.”

Kickoff is slated for 1pm Pacific on ESPN, with Gus Johnson and Kasey Keller handling radio duties on 97.3 KIRO FM.