A fixture up front for the Sounders the past five seasons, Roger Levesque is not only looking forward to playing in Seattle again in 2008, but hopefully ’09 as well.
Although Levesque played sparingly for the San Jose Earthquakes in Major League Soccer from 2003-05, most of that time was spent as a loan player to the Sounders. When the Quakes moved to Houston, he signed with Seattle. This past season he was voted a USL all-star and Seattle won its second league title in three seasons.
Having gotten a taste of MLS and success with the Sounders, the 26-year-old Stanford graduate hopes to be wearing Seattle’s colors when MLS play begins at Qwest Field in 2009.
What are your favorite teams to watch?
I watch a lot of MLS games, and I’ve followed Manchester United because my college coach, Bobby Clark, is a friend of Sir Alex Ferguson. Plus it’s one of the most popular and successful teams in the world.
And your favorite player?
I’ve always liked Ruud van Nistelrooy, especially during his Manchester United days, just as a pure goal scorer. Zinedine Zidane is the smoothest, most effortless player I’ve ever seen. He’s got amazing feet.
What’s your most memorable game as a player?
I’ve been involved in three championship teams. In my first year at San Jose, even though I wasn’t playing, it was great to be a part of it and I wanted to duplicate that experience. In 2005 the Sounders won the championship at home in penalty kicks. I missed mine, so I was unbelievably relieved when we won anyway. This year, we were able to enjoy it more. It just came out of nowhere, a 4-0 win over a great team, Atlanta. Since we didn’t know if the Sounders would return, it was special in its own right.
What about as a spectator; is there a game you remember most?
I grew up in Maine, and had an opportunity to go down to Foxborough (Mass.) to watch a World Cup game in ’94. I didn’t end up going because I had a Little League baseball game. I was so upset. Hearing my friends talk about the experience of it, I realized how important soccer was to me.
Were you aware that MLS awarded Seattle with a franchise before everyone else?
We were in the same boat as everyone, with rumors going back and forth. There was a lot of uncertainty, through no fault of the organization. They were unsure how everything was going to play out. Fortunately, it sounds like MLS was cooperative, and at the same time the organization was flexible.
What was your reaction when over 6,000 season ticket memberships were sold in the few first days following the announcement?
It’s exciting that people are already taking an interest. The buzz is only going to create more excitement. At the club I coach, a lot of people have already reserved tickets. They’re excited to take their kids to see the highest level of soccer in the United States. Playing in Qwest Field, there’s a great opportunity to fill the lower bowl which will provide a great atmosphere for soccer. And as 2009 draws near, interest will be definitely peak.
And your reaction to the announcement that MLS is coming in ’09 while the Sounders are returning in ‘08?
It’s great. It’s a positive for the game, the city and positive for soccer in the U.S. in general. As players we essentially have a chance to try-out and get a shot at the MLS squad in 2009. It creates a positive, exciting and energetic atmosphere for the USL team next year.
You had a chance to play in the recent Whitecaps-L.A. Galaxy game as a loan player to Vancouver. What was that like?
It was a great experience, the biggest crowd I’ve every played in front of–over 48,000 in B.C. Place. It was an absolute spectacle. Screaming fans excited about David Beckham, excited about the game. A streaker graced us with his presence, and there was a marriage proposal in the crowd. The level of excitement was amazing and players fed off that. You see that atmosphere and ask ‘Why would it be any different in Seattle?’
Adrian Hanauer, owner and general manager of both the Sounders and MLS Seattle, has negotiated the right to promote the top players to the MLS team. As an all-star, that has to be good news for you?
It would be the best opportunity for me to get back in the MLS. Yes, Adrian’s interested in keeping a core group of players, but at the same time it’s going to be the people who perform well this coming season. There are no guarantees for anybody (laughs) except maybe Sebastien (Le Toux, the USL MVP).
What made these Sounders so special in winning the USL championship and advancing to the semifinals of the Open Cup?
Chemistry was a big part of it, we were all out there fighting for each other, including our coaches. Every one respected Brian Schmetzer, our head coach, and Darren Sawatzky and the job they did. And the front office was there for us. It’s a story of everyone coming together at the right time and responding. It was one of the best teams I’ve ever been a part of. Next season, we’d like to duplicate that feeling and that environment in the last year for the Sounders as we know it.