From the moment that he walked onto the field for warm-ups until the time he finally finished all of his post-game duties over three hours after the final whistle, Roger Levesque did everything he could to soak in every second of his final game with the Sounders FC.
He played the final 24 minutes in a 4-2 loss to Chelsea FC in front of a crowd of 53,309, many of whom stayed after the final whistle as Levesque and his teammates did a lap of the field, saluting the fans in each section along the way.
As is customary, the final section was the supporters sections at the south end of the stadium. However, his teammates changed things up a bit on this special night. Mike Seamon and Servando Carrasco lifted Levesque onto their shoulders, where he got a king’s ovation. With his teammates still surrounding him, Levesque put his own stamp on the occasion, plugging his nose and taking one last scuba plunge reminiscent of the one that earned him national acclaim in a 4-2 win over the New York Red Bulls last season.
“It’s been an amazing soccer experience and I really couldn’t have scripted it any better,” he said. “It was a great game. A good connection with all of the people – the fans, the teammates.”
Afterward, he addressed the crowd in the Emerald City Supporters.
“I just wanted to say thank you guys. You guys are absolutely amazing. There is no better place to be a soccer player in the world,” he shouted into their microphone. “Thank you so much and I can’t wait to join you guys and cheer on that team over there on to an MLS Cup title and Open Cup.”
He then led the Emerald City Supporters in their now-famous call-and-repeat, “SEATTLE … SOUNDERS!!!”
He wasn’t done there though. He stayed over 90 minutes after the final whistle signing autographs for as many fans who stuck around as he could, taking pictures and chatting with the fans who had supported him in the city he called home since 2003.
“I fought tooth and nail not to get up there on that microphone. But sure enough, there I go,” he smiled. “They’ve been amazing right from the start and they will continue to be. They love this team and this organization more than anything. That passion and that emotion is pretty amazing to see. If you stop every once in a while and really take a second to appreciate it for what it is, it can push you to be a little bit better and do a little bit more.”
So, while the Sounders hold a brief training session on Thursday, then return to their normal schedule on Monday, Levesque will move into retirement, taking some time off before starting work on his MBA at the University of Washington in the fall.
“There will be moments where it sets in slowly that I’m not a soccer player anymore – that I’m not in the Sounders organization in that same capacity,” he said. “I truly am excited for what’s next and really looking forward to it.”
That won’t be limited to just advancing his education and working in the non-profit sector, which he plans to do when he finishes the two-year program at UW.
He will also continue to be an ambassador for the Sounders and soccer in the northwest. And join in the fans in supporting his great friends and teammates with the Sounders FC.
“I’m excited for that. I’m excited to watch these guys and be behind them 100 percent and how they grow as a group and grow as a team,” he said. “There’s so much positive stuff coming out of the team and the potential is limitless.”
But that was on hold for one more night, as Levesque had his day in the sun, reluctantly taking the spotlight in the Sounders match with the UEFA Champions League and FA Cup winning Chelsea.
Everything he saw on the night confirmed to him that he was making the right decision in hanging up his boots.
“Tonight was the night. I was ready,” he said after finishing several handshakes, hugs, well-wishes and interviews . “No regrets.”
The club is planning to formally honor Levesque at CenturyLink Field prior to the match on October 7, 2012 when the Seattle Sounders FC host - fittingly - the Portland Timbers.