Sounders' Roger Levesque leaving laughing
Roger Levesque became one the most popular players for both the USL and MLS Sounders, in part, because he made soccer seem fun.
That’s one of the reasons he decided the celebratory home friendly tonight against Champions League winner Chelsea FC is a fitting spot to play his final game.
“How great did that work out?” Levesque said Tuesday. “When they organized the match, I think Chelsea was like mid-table (middle of the standings), struggling a little bit, and here they are winning the Champions League, best team in Europe. ... It’s going to be an exciting night regardless of how it plays out. And that’s why it was a good time for me just to end ... on a high note with everybody involved.”
Levesque, 31, announced last week that he is giving up the sport to pursue a master’s in business at the University of Washington.
His professional career began in 2003 when he was taken by San Jose with the 23rd pick in the MLS SuperDraft. Before that season was out, he was sent to Seattle on loan, and he stuck around for most of nine seasons.
Over his 3½ seasons with the MLS Sounders, he appeared in 86 competitions, starting 38, and scoring nine goals with 10 assists. However, he developed a relationship with the fans that reached far beyond quantifiable contributions on the pitch.
“Roger has been such a great ambassador and exemplifies what it’s about being a part of this club,” said Adrian Hanauer, general manager of the MLS Sounders and former owner of the USL club. “His on-the-field contributions; off the field, in the locker room, as a friend to the players, staff, coaches, as a guy in the community, he’s just been amazing, tremendous. And such a good guy that you just wish him the best. ... We’ll miss him, for sure.”
This season, Levesque appeared in four MLS matches and three U.S. Open Cup matches. However, he said the scant playing time wasn’t what led to his retirement.
“It wasn’t a soccer decision,” he said. “(As) the possibility of school started to become a reality, the more excited I got about it. I think it was one of those things where regardless of how this year was going – well, unless I scored like 20 goals – I just know in my heart that it’s the right time for me.”
Coach Sigi Schmid said he will make sure Levesque gets featured playing time tonight.
However, Levesque said he hasn’t come up with any just-in-case goal celebration – nothing like his famed “timberrrr” tree-chopping celebration after scoring at Portland in the 2009 U.S. Open Cup or his “scuba dive” backflip off the CenturyLink advertising boards against New York last season.
And he wasn’t able to single out a particular moment when asked for the top memory of his career.
Levesque’s relationships with the club and its fans, though, will stay with him forever.
“They’ve been amazing, and I kind of attribute that to just being around a long time and being just a little bit more visible in the community, maybe making friends pretty easily,” Levesque said. “It’s kind of gone both ways. Hopefully I’ve touched some lives, and I know that each and every one of them has affected me some way as well.”
Chelsea star midfielder Florent Malouda has joined the club in Seattle. ... Hanauer and Schmid said they had nothing to report regarding rumors that midfielder Alvaro Fernandez will be loaned to Deportivo Cali of Columbia. ... During the offseason, Sounders FC will review of its policy of including one big-name international friendly as part of the season-ticket package, Hanauer said. ... The Sounders next game won’t come until July 28 at Colorado, and Schmid said that should allow him to play a competitive lineup that could help avoid anything like the 7-0 rout suffered last season against Manchester United. ... Schmid indicated midfielder Steve Zakuani (leg) could play tonight, but seemed less clear about goalkeeper Michael Gspurning (hip). ... Defender Marc Burch and goalkeeper Andrew Weber will appear at a family fitness event 6-8 p.m. Thursday at the Al Davies Branch Boys & Girls Club, 1620 S. 17th St. in Tacoma. Those interested in attending should call in advance: 253-502-4631.
CHELSEA FC AT SOUNDERS FC
6:30 p.m., CenturyLink Field
TV: ESPN2 RADIO: 97.3-FM, 99.3-FM (Spanish)
CHELSEA IN SEATTLE: This will be Chelsea’s fifth match in Seattle. The Blues defeated the Sounders, 2-0, in 2009 before a crowd of 65,372 at CenturyLink. The goals came from Daniel Sturridge and Frank Lampard. Chelsea also beat Celtic, 4-2, in 2004; lost 2-0 to the NASL Sounders in the Kingdome in 1977, and defeated a local amateur side, 5-0, at Memorial Stadium in 1967.
NOTES: Chelsea is an English Premier League club based in London. Last season, the Blues won their first UEFA Champions League and seventh FA Cup, but finished sixth in the EPL. The club also has won four League Cups, four English championships and two UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup.
This friendly opens Chelsea’s four-game United States tour.
Seattle is 8-5-7 in MLS. This is Chelsea’s first match since May 19, when it defeated Bayern Munich in the Champions League final. EPL play begins next month.
The match will be played on a temporary natural-grass pitch.
Seattle midfielder Roger Levesque has announced that he will retire after this match.
Former NASL Sounder Roger Davies will be honored with the Golden Scarf before the match.
Tickets remain available. A crowd of around 55,000 is expected.
QUOTABLE: “Obviously it’s great when you’re playing against the Champions League winners. That’s a great thrill for our club, and I think it should be a great day for our fans. Chelsea – deservedly with the trophy – gets a chance to honor their team on this tour as well. It will be a great day.” – Sounders coach Sigi Schmid
NEXT: Chelsea faces Paris Saint Germain in New York on Sunday. The Sounders return to MLS play July 28 at Colorado.
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