Chop it down

Ten goals and three assists.

Scoring a goal in the opening minute of the third round US Open Cup playoff game in 2009.

Scoring all three goals over the course of a home-and-away playoff series on the way to a USL title in 2005.

Portland Timbers fans have several reasons to dislike Roger Levesque – and he has a laugh at every one of them.

Especially when he tells the story of the one-off game that he played for them.  It came after the 2007 USL season had come to an end.  It had already been announced that Seattle would join Major League Soccer in 2009, but there had not been any conclusions about what the USL side would do in 2008.  Unsure of his immediate soccer future, Levesque left the door open for an invitation from Portland head coach Gavin Wilkinson for a friendly with Toronto FC.

“I walked out on the field to see a giant sign in the Timbers Army section that said ‘True fans hate Levesque’,” the Sounders forward said.  “After the game, Gavin was so agitated with how they were treating the guest players that he told the team not to go down and thank the fans like they always do.”

If they held just a strong dislike for Levesque before he scored on a diving header 45 seconds into the Sounders 2-1 US Open Cup win at Portland’s PGE Park, Timber fans must have grown into an all out hatred after Levesque scored and raced to an empty patch of grass and stood like a tree to have Nate Jaqua mime cutting him down like a tree in celebration.

“Maybe the celebration added fuel to the fire,” Levesque laughed.  “It was a collaboration of a group of us on the busride down.  We were going to chop Nate down – he’s more tree-like.  But somehow in the heat of the moment, he pulled out his axe and chopped me down.  I don’t know that I’ve ever hit the ground that hard.”

Regardless of the reason, Levesque has been the primary target of scorn from the Rose City.  Ever since he joined the Sounders in the USL in 2003, he has been a thorn in the side of the Timbers.  Not only does he have ten goals and three assists in that span, but they have all seem to come at critical points for the Sounders.

“I think it’s great that they have embraced the game and are as passionate about it – regardless of whether that is cheering for their team or hating opposing players.  As long as they are passionate about it, people see that around the country and I think it’s great for the sport,” said Levesque, who clarified that he had no ill-will toward Portland’s players.  “The soccer community is pretty small, so I have personal relationships with a lot of those guys.  We get along off the field, but once you put on the jersey, you do anything you can do to win the game.”

Levesque looks forward to the 2011 season, when Portland will join MLS, particularly because of the intensity of the rivalry and the value that has to the league as a whole.  First and foremost, he hopes to see a great turnout Thursday night in the Community Shield match, when the Sounders will face Portland at Qwest Field.

“It’s great that we can continue that rivalry this year, especially leading into them joining MLS next year.  The atmosphere should be great.  It’ll be good to get it going again,” he said.  “They’ve been successful and with the success we had last year, it’s exciting to see where both organizations have come and what the future holds for both of them.”

Kickoff is slated for 6 pm at Qwest Field and gates open at 5.  General admission tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for children ages 6-17 and free for children under 6.  Proceeds from the match will benefit the team's four community partners: Boys and Girls Club of Washington State, Seattle SCORES, Soccer Saves and Washington Youth Soccer.  Following the match the Sounders FC coaches and players will sign autographs from the field.