Key for Timbers vs. Sounders: Stopping Levesque

Forward has a knack for hurting Portland over the years

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

Published:

 

Roger Levesque. It is a name that is less than loved by established Portland Timbers fans.

The Seattle forward has had a knack for sticking it to Portland over the years. When the rivals were both second-division teams, Levesque scored nine goals in matches against the Timbers.

Two years ago, when the Sounders visited Portland for a U.S. Open Cup match, Levesque scored 48 seconds into a match that Seattle won 2-1.

“For some reason he’s had a lot of his best games against Portland,” Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid said.

With the Sounders scheduled to visit Portland on Sunday, guess who recently emerged in a leading role up front for Seattle?

Yep. Levesque has produced several big goals of late, including two in a win over the New York Red Bulls.

“Roger’s played very well lately,” Schmid said.

The Sounders coach said that early in this season, he wouldn’t have predicted Levesque being part of the Seattle lineup.

But the forward upgraded his practice habits, according to Schmid. With injuries taking O’Brien White and Steve Zakuani out of the lineup, and with designated player Fredy Montero struggling, Levesque has helped pick up the slack for Seattle.

Schmid said Levesque did a good job up front of holding possession in the Sounders’ scoreless draw at Los Angeles. He did miss one high-quality scoring chance in that match.

“He wants to be on the field on Sunday. I know that,” Schmid said.

The Sounders likely feel that way as a group. They are unbeaten in five consecutive road games and seven games overall. Schmid credits his team’s mindset for its success away from Seattle.

“We don’t change our style (on the road),” Schmid said, noting that he never wants his team playing for ties.

The Sounders coach said playing at Jeld-Wen Field might help his club. In a league where full houses are more exception than rule, loud environments such as those in Portland and Seattle energize the visitors as much as the home team, Schmid said.

And there’s the new FieldTurf at Jeld-Wen Field.

“We are a team that plays better on better surfaces,” Schmid said of his system that emphasizes possession.

That harkens to the public back-and-forth between Schmid and Timbers coach John Spencer following the May draw, part of which was a Spencer quip suggesting that in the future the Timbers would take extra towels with them to help the Sounders dry their own field.

“I have no issue with John Spencer,” Schmid said. “We’re rivals because we coach Seattle and Portland, and we’re both competitive people and we want to win games.”