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Roger Levesque: When Preparation Meets Opportunity
Having made it to the highest level of American soccer, it's safe to assume that Roger Levesque's love for the game runs deep. So does his talent to play it.
Apparently, though, it didn't run in his family.
"Growing up, my dad was the coach of my baseball and basketball teams," says Levesque, who continued with both of those sports through his high school days in Maine. "But he didn't know anything about soccer. And that was the one sport I ended up excelling in and sticking with."
Different athletic preferences notwithstanding, Levesque no doubt made his dad, also named Roger, very proud. From the Saturday Soccer program in his Maine hometown of Portland, as an 8-year-old, to Major League Soccer in Seattle, as a 28-year-old, goal-scoring spark plug off the bench for the Sounders, Levesque is the personification of what happens when preparation and opportunity come together.
"The one thing for sure is I'll continue to play as long as I love the game," Levesque says. "And if I'm playing, I might as well work hard and try to get better and try to improve."
Lately, that preparation and opportunity have met at some very opportune times for Levesque. On Sept. 2 in Washington, D.C., Levesque came in with Seattle up 1-0, and his goal in the 85th minute turned out to be the winner as the Sounders beat D.C. United in the U.S. Open Cup championship game, 2-1.
On Oct. 3 in Columbus, he got the start at midfield and scored in the 36th minute of the Sounders' 1-0 victory that snapped the Crew's 22-match home unbeaten streak. Two weeks later in Kansas City, Levesque entered in the 63rd minute and scored the tying goal in the 69th as Seattle came from behind for a 3-2 victory against the Wizards to clinch a playoff spot.
"His role right now is that he's a guy off the bench who has been getting goals for us," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid says. "He got that opportunity and, where a couple other players didn't grab hold of that opportunity earlier, he has grabbed hold of it."
Even with all of that, Levesque's feet never have left the ground.
"I'm just kind of taking it one day at a time, and it has been like that from Day 1 when I first started preseason practice back in January," he says. "You just go out and compete, do as well as you can in practice, and convert your opportunities in games. You just try to take advantage of it."
NOSE FOR THE NET
From those youth soccer days in Maine, being in the heat of the goalmouth action has been Levesque's forte.
"That's what I was passionate about," he says. "You start out as a forward or center midfielder, and as you get older … they start putting players in different positions. I've been fortunate to be considered a forward or attacking player.
"But at this point, it's about helping the team and getting on the field," he adds. "It doesn't matter where I play."
Levesque's sense of helping extends to coaching several area youth soccer teams, ranging from U-9 to U-18, something he has been doing for the past few years since he was with the USL-1 Sounders.
"Each group brings something different to the table," he says, breaking into a grin. "I enjoy the seriousness of the U-14 boys. The U-18 girls team I coach is out there to have fun because they've played together forever, and they just love to do it. And U-8, they just like to be out there to run around. I enjoy the whole array of experiences."
With his own array of experiences as a multi-sport athlete growing up, Levesque is a firm believer in young athletes doing the same and having more than just one kind of game in their lives.
Certainly, though, Levesque likes it when soccer is among the choices they make.
"More and more kids are starting to play and really enjoy it," he says. "They can see players like Kasey Keller, Freddie Ljungberg and Fredy Montero go out and do the special things that they do, and it excites young kids. They say, ‘I want to do that. I want to play like Freddie Ljungberg.'
"It's pretty amazing to see."
He says the same about this first season with the Sounders.
"The moment that most affected me emotionally was walking out on the field that first game, having no idea what to expect," he says. "I knew it was going to be exciting and a big deal. But at the same time, walking out that first night with 30,000 people here, up and screaming — my stomach just sort of dropped and started buzzing around.
"The fans haven't stopped since. They've gotten louder and more and more passionate. Everybody in the city is behind this team. That's why I think it has been so successful."
That's part of it.
But don't forget those timely moments when preparation and opportunity have come together for Roger Levesque.
That's part of it, too.
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