Chop it down

Roger Levesque has been the target of Timbers fans for years

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.