Roger Levesque is lightning rod for Seattle-Portland rivalry | Sounders FC
Rose City fans' dislike of Roger Levesque goes back a ways, maybe 8 years
Seattle Times staff reporter
Portland @ Sounders FC, 8 p.m., ESPN2
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TUKWILA — Love him or hate him.
There won't be much in-between this week when it comes to Sounders FC forward/midfielder Roger Levesque. The scruffy-haired 30-year-old has been a fixture in Seattle's soccer rivalry with Portland for almost a decade, and despised by Timbers fans nearly every step of the way.
That animosity was best demonstrated in October of 2007, when he volunteered to play as a guest player for Portland in an exhibition against Toronto at PGE Park. At that time, the Sounders were undecided on whether they'd field a team in the season before their MLS leap.
When Levesque stepped out onto the field in the starting lineup he was greeted by a large sign in his supposed "home" crowd:
True fans hate Levesque
"No love lost there, that's for sure," he said, recounting the story after Monday's practice.
Levesque first played for the Sounders of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) in 2003 while on loan from San Jose of MLS. Eight years later, he has become a symbol of the impassioned Cascadia rivalry, which resumes Saturday at Qwest Field.
Has he embraced it?
"Absolutely," he said, sweat dripping from his unkempt facial hair as he smiled.
Assistant coach Brian Schmetzer, who coached Levesque with the USL Sounders, can't figure why the soft-spoken Stanford product is so hated.
"Roger is the nicest guy on our team almost," Schmetzer said.
Longtime teammate and friend Taylor Graham has some idea.
"He's easy to hate because he's a nuisance and a pest that never stops working," Graham said.
Levesque has also scored some big goals against Portland, most recently in the first minute of a U.S. Open Cup match in 2009. His goal celebration surely didn't endear himself to the Timbers crowd either, when he posed as a tree only to be "chopped down" by teammate Nate Jaqua.
Schmetzer said the hatred might have started in 2003 when Timbers fans thought Levesque kicked their goalkeeper in the face.
The line between truth and myth has blurred over the years, it seems.
"I've been around for a long time," Levesque said simply, "and I think that's why they pick on me a little bit."
Perhaps the most versatile Sounder, expect Levesque to play some sort of role in Saturday's big game. Coincidentally a native of Portland — Maine, not Oregon — the veteran has played all over the field this season.
"My philosophy has always been, 'Whatever it takes to help the team win,' " he said. "Wherever that puts me on the field is fine."
When it comes to the rivalry, however, Levesque is squarely in the middle.
• MLS salaries were released earlier this month by the players union. Fredy Montero, who earned designated-player status with an offseason raise, is Sounders FC's highest-paid player with a base salary of $500,000. Midfielder Alvaro Fernandez, who is also a DP, makes $300,000.
Other players that earned significant raises include: Osvaldo Alonso (now at $140,000), Nate Jaqua ($200,000), Leo Gonzalez ($110,000) and Jeff Parke ($136,500). Goalkeeper Kasey Keller took a $50,000 pay cut this season and will make $250,000.
• The 2011 MLS Cup will be played at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., on Nov. 20 at 6 p.m., the league announced Tuesday.
• Midfielder Mauro Rosales is questionable this weekend with a hamstring strain.
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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