In August of 2003, Roger Levesque became a staple in the Seattle Sounders organization. After joining the team, their first match was at PGE Park against the Portland Timbers and not long after, he became public enemy number one for Timbers supporters.
On Saturday, when the Sounders head down I-5 to square off with the Timbers at the remodeled minor league baseball stadium that has become JELD-WEN Field, it will be the first time since before that August match that they will do so without Levesque in tow.
Levesque, 31, retired in July to pursue his MBA at the University of Washington.
And while the affable forward/midfielder/defender will be missed on the field and in the locker room for the Sounders, his absence won’t cause those same Timbers supporters that once burned his jersey to shed a tear or tone down their bitterness toward their rivals.
“Does that ratchet the animosity down a little bit? I highly doubt it,” said Sounders FC defender Zach Scott, who himself has participated in the rivalry since 2002. “But yeah, it is going to be a little weird. He’s going to be missed out there. He’s a staple of the Portland-Seattle rivalry.”
In 29 matches in the Seattle-Portland derby, he tallied 10 goals and four assists, including memorable goals in the 2005 playoffs and 2009 Open cup.
He had three goals in the first round of the 2005 playoffs against the Timbers, leaving Portland going home for the off-season while the Sounders went on to win the USL championship.
A cult-hero became legend in 2009 when Levesque scored 48 seconds into Seattle’s US Open Cup match against the Timbers, both with the goal and with the celebration when forward Nate Jaqua mimed chopping Levesque down like a tree.
Though he may not be sitting on the bench or warming up in pregame, Levesque is still a presence in Sounders circles. In that respect, he is still there with the team, even two months after his retirement.
“He’s still very much a part of this group,” midfielder Brad Evans said. “There’s other players as well that have been involved in this cup for a number of years that are still in and around the team.”
For all of the success that the Sounders have had with Levesque against Portland, head coach Sigi Schmid joked on Tuesday that he just may take him on the trip.
“We’re trying to figure out if we can bring him down somehow,” Schmid said. “If we can’t bring him, maybe we can bring a cardboard cutout or paint his face on the side of the bus. We've got to do something to take Roger with us.”
Evans takes that idea one step further.
“It’d be great if he came on and scored,” he laughed. “That would be a plus.”
With his knack for the dramatic, it will be worth tuning into NBC at 12:30 pm Pacific, just in case.