How much do Portland Timbers fans dislike Roger Levesque?
So much so that their animosity flared even when he wore their colors.
Proof came in 2007, when the long-time Seattle Sounder joined the Timbers for a friendly match against Toronto FC.
“I was in the starting lineup, and walked out on the field and there was a sign that said: ‘True fans hate Levesque,’ ” he said. “No love lost there, that’s for sure.”
Never miss a local story.
That’s sure to be the case again Saturday, when the Timbers and Sounders FC meet at Qwest Field for the first time as MLS rivals.
But why? Why have Portland soccer fans settled on a nice-guy veteran reserve as their most disliked player on their most disliked team?
“I don’t know why,” said Brian Schmetzer, the former USL Sounders’ head coach and a current Sounders assistant. “Roger’s the nicest guy on our team almost. Him and Taylor Graham are such nice guys. They’re Stanford guys – they’re smart, funny, articulate. And for some odd reason, they thought that Roger kicked one of their goalkeepers in the face in 2003. I think that’s the root of that rivalry.”
Asked about that before the Timbers-Sounders 2009 U.S. Open Cup match in Portland, Levesque laughed, denied it, then laughed again.
“I’ve been around a long time, scored a few goals, probably gotten in a few scuffles, probably have fallen down my fair share,” he said. “… I don’t know. They need something to cheer about, something to get behind, and it’s me sometimes.”
Then Levesque went out and added both insult and injury by scoring a first-minute goal for the Sounders before teaming with Nate Jaqua on a goal celebration that mimicked a tree being chopped down.
“I was the tree, and he cut me down, and I kind of fell over,” Levesque said that night after Seattle won. “That was for the fans. We were just disappointed it was ... not over (by the Timbers Army supporters group).”
Through most of this season, it seemed that Timbers fans visiting Qwest Field this week would have to aim their antipathy somewhere else, because Levesque had no starts and only four appearances over Seattle’s first nine games.
Then last week he played every minute of the Sounders’ 1-1 draw at Columbus. Levesque started at forward opposite Fredy Montero, but he also has been used this season as a midfielder and defender.
“It’s been interesting just bouncing around a little bit,” he said. “... My philosophy has just been the last couple years, ‘Whatever it takes to help the team win.’ Wherever that puts me on the field is fine. Just going out and battling and connecting passes and doing whatever it takes.”
That’s the attitude Schmetzer said has allowed Levesque, a two-time All-American at Stanford, to maintain a nine-year professional career and make the successful jump from the USL to MLS.
“It’s perseverance, it’s quality, it’s his testament to being able to adapt to different coaching styles,” Schmetzer said. “… He’s good in the air, he can run, he works hard, he closes down. (He) is going to be important on Saturday because Portland’s a big team, high energy”
MLS Cup 2011 was awarded Tuesday to Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., home of the Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. The game will be played at 6 p.m. Nov. 20. This will be the fourth time that Home Depot Center has played host to the championship game. … Rookie midfielder Servando Carrasco was named to the MLS Team of the Week after making his second career start and playing the entire game Saturday at Columbus.
firstname.lastname@example.org twitter/donruiztnt blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer