Levesque scored twice against New York last year.
Sounders fans received an unexpected jolt when the Seattle Times ' Steve Kelley, in a column this


Sounders' Levesque to Retire After Wednesday's Match vs. Chelsea

Levesque scored twice against New York last year.
Sounders fans received an unexpected jolt when the Seattle Times' Steve Kelley, in a column this morning, revealed that veteran Roger Levesque would retire after Wednesday's home friendly against European champions Chelsea FC.

Levesque, a member of Sounders FC since their first season, could see his final Major League Soccer action Sunday, when Seattle visits the New York Red Bulls (1 p.m., ESPN).

It's an unusual move by an unconventional athlete.

Levesque, just 31, clearly can still play: for the first time this year, he started at forward against San Jose in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal last month, went all the way, and performed well in the Sounders' 1-0 win. A fan favorite in Seattle for several years, Levesque has worn a Sounders uniform since 2003, when he began playing for the United Soccer League franchise, which he led to league titles in 2005 and 2007.

He made 130 appearances over six seasons for the USL's A-League and First Division Sounders, with 27 goals and 16 assists.

Highly valued for his versatility (he can play up front, in the midfield and at right back), Levesque made a career-high 19 appearances for the Sounders last year, with nine starts, three goals and two assists. He played in just four MLS contests this season, starting two, and has not seen action in the past 14 league matches, last playing April 14 vs. Colorado.

Over the years, he's endeared himself to Sounders fans with a number of memorable goals--and even more memorable celebrations. Unpopular to begin with in Portland, he earned the wrath of the Rose City forever after scoring a stunning first-minute goal against the Timbers in a 2009 U.S. Open Cup third-round match at PGE Park, then standing like a tree and allowing himself to be "chopped down" by teammate Nate Jaqua.

Three rounds and two months later, he scored the game-winner against D.C. United in the final as the Sounders captured the first of their three U.S. Open Cups, his 86th-minute goal silencing a hostile crowd at RFK Stadium. Levesque repeated the feat the following July at D.C., beating United with a diving header in the 89th minute.

In last June's 4-2 home victory against New York, he made an exaggerated pirate face after netting a running header midway through the second half, putting Seattle up 3-2, then topped that in the 78th minute. With Seattle clinging to the one-goal lead, he stole the ball after Red Bulls keeper Greg Sutton badly mishandled a clearance, raced past Sutton to score his second goal, then ran over to the boards behind the goal, sat on top, plugged his nose and toppled over backward like a scuba diver:

After walking away from the game he's played since he was growing up in Portland, Maine, Levesque--who has an economics degree from Stanford--plans to enroll at the University of Washington and pursue an MBA, with the intention of eventually working for a nonprofit.

Levesque will cross paths with former Sounders teammate Sebastien Le Toux Sunday after Vancouver traded the veteran forward to New York for midfielder Dane Richards on Friday night. Le Toux, who played alongside Levesque from 2007-09, scored 24 goals in the Sounders' final two USL-1 seasons and was the first player signed by a fledgling Sounders FC in May 2008. After scoring one goal in 2009, he was selected by Philadelphia in the expansion draft and racked up 26 goals and 20 assists in the Union's first two seasons.

The 28-year-old Frenchman, traded to Vancouver in January, played in all 19 matches for the Whitecaps, with four goals and an assist. Le Toux has continued an impressive streak: He has not received as much as a yellow card (let alone red) in MLS play over his three and a half seasons, a run of 111 matches that includes two postseason contests last year.

Levesque's departure frees up a roster spot just as the summer transfer window opens wide. The Sounders, who added Leo Gonzalez, Blaise Nkufo, and Alvaro Fernandez via transfer over the past three summers, have indicated an interest in German midfielder Christian Tiffert, a 30-year-old with a dozen years of professional experience who played the past three seasons for Kaiserslautern of the Bundesliga, which was relegated to the second division after the just-concluded season.

There's injury news on the Sounders front, and for once, it's good: first-string keeper Michael Gspurning, who has missed the past 12 matches since suffering an strained hip May 2 against Los Angeles, will travel East with the team and could start against a Red Bull squad that is unbeaten in seven matches at home (5-0-2), has scored 32 goals, third in MLS, and is loaded with offensive talent--Kenny Cooper, who played for Portland last year, leads New York with 11 goals, while Thierry Henry, a star over the past 14 years for France, Arsenal and Barcelona, has scored nine goals and set up five more despite playing in just 11 matches. If Gspurning can't go, rookie Bryan Meredith will make his third straight start.

Sounders forward Eddie Johnson, with five goals in his past six MLS matches and a team-leading eight overall, has been getting all the attention lately, but keep a eye on Fredy Montero, who hasn't scored since May 19 at Vancouver--a streak that has stretched to 523 minutes--but has four goals in five career matches against the Red Bulls.

This is the fourth East Coast trip the Sounders have taken this season, and it's their last, at least until the postseason (perhaps at D.C. or New York for the MLS Cup, if you who dare to dream big). It signals a significant change in a schedule that has been grueling over two long stretches through the first four months; after Sunday, Seattle plays 14 more matches, all against Western Conference teams, with the longest flight to Dallas in early September, 12 of the 14 on the West Coast, and seven at home, including three of the final four.

The Sounders make two long trips in the season's final three months, with the CONCACAF Champions League schedule dictating flights--far from direct--to Trinidad & Tobago and Honduras. The latter match, against Honduran power Marathon, is in the middle of a week-long mid-September stretch that begins with a match at Portland and ends at home against West-leading San Jose, a contest that's been circled on fans' calendars since the Earthquakes' controversial 1-0 victory here on the final day of March.

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