Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Always do what you’re afraid to do.”
Those are words that Roger Levesque takes to heart and are part of the reason he is retiring to pursue his Master’s in Business Administration at the University of Washington.
First, though, he had to conquer another fear – telling his teammates.
“It’s pretty simple, but when it comes down to it, you might as well take chances,” he said of the build-up to telling his teammates. “That was something I was afraid to do.”
That is because he had grown incredibly close with many of his teammates. Zach Scott’s children call him “Uncle Rog.” He has shared a household with several of his teammates and has always played a key figure in bringing new players in to the culture of Sounders soccer.
It’s the culture that he was brought into - slowly but surely - when he came to the USL team in 2003 and that culture continued to flourish as he became more and more of a Seattlite.
His impact on teammates is beyond that of most players and is why Scott, another longtime Sounder, knew he would struggle with the news of Levesque’s retirement.
“I was bummed. I told him I was going to take it harder than he was,” Scott said after learning the news over a cup of coffee in Montreal last month. “It was hard to hear, but at the same time I’m excited for this next phase in his life.”
Sounders FC director of youth development Darren Sawatzky played with Levesque in the USL and was also an assistant coach for the Sounders in the final two years of the USL franchise. He knows first-hand the type of player and person Levesque is and the value that he brings, in large part because of his unique character.
“Coaches love Roger because of his work rate. He could probably play another 10 years if he wanted to,” Sawatzky said. “He has no problem playing one minute or 90 minutes. You get 100 percent from him. I think any coach in any league would love to have him because you can count on him.”
That sentiment was echoed by every player that spoke about him.
“He’s a guy you want on your team. He’s never a question mark,” said Taylor Graham, who played with Levesque at Stanford before their pro career paths came together in Seattle. “You always know what you’re going to get and you want someone like that on your team. He doesn’t do anything but work. He’s a fighter.”
Added Sounders FC assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, who was the head coach for the Sounders in all of Levesque’s six USL seasons, “I think it comes back to his character. Being humble allows him to do whatever it takes to help the team win. He would do absolutely whatever it takes to make the team successful.”
That mentality wins over fans and teammates and has led Levesque to seven championships in 10 seasons as a professional. He won the 2003 MLS Cup with the San Jose Earthquakes. He led the Sounders to the USL championship in 2005 and 2007, adding the Commissioner’s Cup for the best regular season record in 2007, as well. Then, of course, there were the three-consecutive US Open Cup crowns with the Sounders FC.
That success, Graham says, is no coincidence.
“I think that some people win championships and others influence championship teams,” he said. “He’s a winner. He just wins.”
Eddie Johnson agreed, pointing out that those hard-to-replicate characteristics help teams deal with inevitable difficult periods, which subsequently lead to more success.
“I think every championship team needs a player like that with that experience and that type of positive energy to be around the team because it’s contagious,” Johnson said.
Bringing all those traits together, it’s no wonder that Sigi Schmid pairs Levesque with newcomers to the team to help them better understand the pride and tradition that comes with wearing the Sounders' kit.
He roomed Levesque with Johnson when he came to the team at the beginning of the season and Johnson cites that pairing as a big reason as to why he was able to quickly get comfortable with his new team. Most importantly, though, through Levesque, Johnson learned what it takes to be loved in Seattle.
“If you go out there and work hard for the crest, the fans will love you forever,” Johnson said.
When he plays his last game on Wednesday night, he will certainly be missed by everyone around the Sounders organization for all of those things – the winning mentality, the positive attitude, the embodiment of the Sounders.
However, it will be those things that people don’t get to see that will be missed most by those who knew him best over his 10 seasons as a Sounder.
“I’m disappointed that I won't get to see him day-in and day-out and explore different cities and different coffee shops together,” Scott said.
Kickoff for Wednesday’s friendly with Chelsea in the Herbalife World Football Challenge is set for 6:30pm Pacific with television coverage on ESPN2.