The best moment in the Sounders' 4-2 loss to Chelsea was the mutual adoration between retiring player Roger Levesque and his fans.
The murmur started in the 64th minute when Roger Levesque, for the last time in his professional career, checked in with the fourth official.
And a minute later, when he came on to the field to replace Eddie Johnson, the fans, his people, rose and showered him with as warm an ovation as any athlete in Seattle has received.
Beginning with the Emerald City Supporters in the south end of Century Link Field, the crowd chanted his name and many held up signs that read, “Farewell Roger.”
Levesque jogged to midfield and acknowledged the applause by raising his hands over his head and returning the love.
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It was the best moment in Wednesday’s 4-2 Sounders FC loss to Chelsea.
Six goals had been scored in the first half of this friendly. There were 19 attempts on goal and 11 shots on target.
Chelsea scored in the third minute and again in the 11th. Then Fredy Montero scored twice to tie the game at 2-2.
There was so much scoring in the first 45 minutes, it almost felt like one of Magic Johnson’s old summer all-star basketball games. High on offense. Low on passion.
Then, as he has so often during his nine years in Seattle, Levesque gave the game its passion.
In the 74th minute, he got free on a run down the left side and sent a beautiful pass into the box, but the moment was ruined when Sounders forward Sammy Ochoa was tackled off the ball.
For the game’s final 25 minutes, Levesque, who has the metabolism of a hummingbird, buzzed.
This was a proper farewell. A chance for Levesque to hear, one last time, how much he was appreciated. And it was a last opportunity for those who appreciated him to express their love.
“It was absolutely amazing. The whole atmosphere,” Levesque, 31, said as he sat on a railing, signing every autograph, posing for every picture and giving away his jersey and shoes. “The intensity in the stadium was amazing. There were a lot of smiles, a lot of hugs. It was truly a great way to go out.”
This was a farewell party with 53,309 of Levesque’s closest friends.
“All day I got messages from friends that really hit one. And walking onto the field tonight I kind of took a breath and took it all in,” he said. “At certain moments, I found myself getting choked up a little bit. I tried to stay on an even keel. I think the guys settled me down a little bit, kept me grounded for sure.”
No one can say his last minute wasn’t eventful.
Patrick Ianni sent a long ball into the box that almost connected with Levesque. And in the final seconds, off a corner kick, Andy Rose sent a shot toward the goal that would have gone in if it hadn’t hit Levesque, who was standing on the goal line.
In effect, his last play as a Sounder was clearing a teammate’s shot off the line. As the final whistle blew, he grabbed his head in disbelief.
And then he joked about it later. Only a guy as humble as Levesque would see the humor in such a moment.
“I think Andy Rose would have scored that goal, if I wasn’t too old and couldn’t get out of the way,” he said. “I just thought, ‘Oh my gosh.’ “
What kind of an impact has Levesque had on the community? The King County Council proclaimed Wednesday to be Roger Levesque Day in the county. You don’t see that in too many American counties for too many soccer players.
After the game, he took one last lap around the stadium with his teammates. There were hugs from Mauro Rosales and Josh Ford and Zach Scott.
And, at the end of the lap, teammates Michael Seamon and Servando Carrasco hoisted Levesque on their shoulders and in front of the ECS in the south end zone, Levesque held his nose, leaned back and gave these fans, his fans, one last celebratory scuba dive.
After all of his teammates had disappeared into the locker room, Levesque lingered on the field. If he could have, he probably would have shaken hands with everybody in the crowd. As it was, he stayed as long as security would let him. He got to say his proper goodbyes.
Roger Levesque exemplifies everything that is good about sports. He’s an athlete who appreciates his good fortune and understands his community responsibilities.
And his last act as a player was sitting on a railing and giving back to everyone who wanted to look him in the eye and saw farewell.
The perfect ending.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org.