Here’s today’s story on Roger Levesque’s role in the Sounders-Timbers rivalry.
Here are a few quotes that didn’t get into the story:
On the rivalry:
Players, coaching staff and organizations all have unbelievable respect (for each other), but there’s a little back-and-forth with the fans. I think it’s been good. The rivalry has been there since I’ve been here obviously. I’ve been around for a long time and I think that’s why they pick on me a little bit. … Any kind of back-and-forth just shows the passion of both cities and both fan groups in how excited they are and how excited everyone is for the game coming up on Saturday.
Assistant coach BRIAN SCHMETZER
On Levesque’s jump from USL to MLS:
“It’s perseverance, it’s quality, it’s his testament to being able to adapt to different coaching styles. When Sigi came in he was with me for a long time, he certainly was a good player in his own right as a college player, but them he blossomed with me in the USL days. He had some good strike partners, with Sebastien Le Toux on the USL team, and now he gets to play with Fredy Montero, and a guy like Roger thrives on that kind of partnership where he can do some of the little things – the dirty work, the dog work – that allows Montero, that allowed Sebastien to be who he was. And Roger relishes those opportunities.”
On why Portland fans don’t like Levesque:
“There’s been some things that they think he’s done that I don’t think he did. There were some celebrations that casued some controversy, and they perceived it one way and it was actually something else. Roger has never been someone who is disrespectful to opponents’ fans and they saw a couple of things that they put in their back pocket and they pull out for situations like this. He’s easy to hate because he’s a nuisance, he’s a pest, he never stops working.”
Meanwhile, here’s a relevant portion of my story from July 2, 2009, previewing the Sounders visit to Portland for the U.S. Open Cup:
“They’re going to be extremely loud,” Schmetzer said. “They’re going to be – hopefully – well-behaved; because sometimes they use swear words, which we don’t like. Hopefully, they’re going to cheer for their team and be vocal. We’ve always come to appreciate those fans because they do bring a lot of energy to the game, and it’s better to play in front of a lively crowd. The one thing that I do know about the fans, though, is they seem to hate Roger Levesque.”
Both sides agree that Levesque has scored big goals against the Timbers. But Portland fans also say he earned their wrath with dirty play, including once stepping on their goalkeeper’s head.
Asked about that, Levesque laughed, denied it, and 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.”
And the top of the game story that followed:
PORTLAND – If Portland fans didn’t like Roger Levesque before – and they didn’t – they sure don’t like him now.
Levesque put Seattle Sounders FC ahead in the first minute of their U.S. Open Cup third-round match Wednesday against the Portland Timbers of the USL first division. And the Sounders never surrendered that lead on their way to a 2-1 victory before a standing-room-only crowd at PGE Park.
However, simply scoring wasn’t enough for Levesque, who headed the early goal home after taking a pass from Sanna Nyassi. Levesque, who became Portland enemy No. 1 during his time with the USL Sounders, also added a little insult to injury.
“I actually had a celebration planned with Nate Jaqua, running over to the corner: I was the tree and he cut me down, and I kind of fell over,” Lesveque said. “That was for the fans. We were just disappointed it was on this end of the field and not over (by the Timbers Army supporters group).”
The victory sends Seattle to an Open Cup quarterfinal match against the Kansas City Wizards on Tuesday at Starfire Sports Stadium. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. today.
However, cup considerations seemed a secondary issue to the record crowd of 16,382, which represented the USL Timbers’ first PGE Park sellout.
Those fans came for the surprise resumption of a longtime soccer rivalry that began in the North American Soccer League in 1975 and continued though last season, which was Seattle’s last before joining Major League Soccer.
And Sounders players and coaches admitted that Portland’s singing, chanting, flag-waving, flair-throwing fans made this match special.
“I’ve played a lot of games on this pitch,” Levesque said. “I’ve had some good memories and I’ve also been on the other end of it. … They’ve always had a really strong support system – the best in the USL hands down. We didn’t expect anything less tonight. The atmosphere was absolutely amazing. Whether that Timbers Army is booing you or cheering for you, it’s great for soccer in the Northwest.”
After Levesque’s early goal, the Sounders got a little breathing room in the 27th minute, as Stephen King send another in from the top of the box.
That gave the Sounders a 2-0 lead, and a well-earned one as they were dominating in most phases of play.
However, Portland crept back within striking distance in the 43rd minute, when Mandjou Keita beat the Seattle defense to a ball in the box and finished, cutting the Sounders’ lead to 2-1 at halftime.
Both teams continued pushing forward in the second half, but neither broke through again.
“Obviously we got off to a great start: We scored a great early goal,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “The second goal was well-taken, as well. We were around the goal at times. We let them back in it by giving up the goal late in the first half. … But that’s what these games are. They aren’t always pretty. Sometimes they’re the kinds of games where you have to roll up your sleeves and that’s what we did in the second half.”
The Seattle-Portland soccer rivalry started in 1975, when both sides were members of the North American Soccer League, continued through some lesser leagues, resumed most recently when both teams were members of the United Soccer Leagues first division.
Seattle led won the NASL series, 13-7, and the USL series 16-11-5. Wednesday’s result pushed Seattle ahead in Open Cup meetings, 6-5.