By John Boyle Herald Writer
SEATTLE — Just before the final whistle of what would be the final game of his professional career, Roger Levesque couldn’t quite avoid a headed shot from Seattle Sounders teammate Andy Rose, inadvertently preventing his team from scoring a possible goal.
For Levesque, it was a humorous way to go out, and for the Sounders, it was the kind of stop its own defense could have used more of in the first half of a 4-2 loss to Chelsea FC.
Chelsea, the London-based club that is beginning its preseason training with a U.S. tour, started and ended a goal-scoring barrage in the first half, bookending four goals around a pair of scores by Seattle forward Fredy Montero. And in the second half, the scoring gave way to a classy sendoff for longtime Sounder Levesque, who was playing his final game before retiring.
And while the Sounders were unable to pull off an upset against the team that just two months ago claimed the UEFA Champions League trophy, Seattle did put up perhaps its best showing in a friendly against a big European club. The Sounders lost 2-0 to Chelsea and 4-0 to Barcelona in 2009, then was embarrassed in a 7-0 loss to Manchester United last year.
“I thought the first half offensively we did some good things,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “Not only the two goals, but I thought we created some good chances. I think (Chelsea goalkeeper Henrique) Hilario made a couple of good saves for them. So we were a bit unfortunate to maybe not get more than two goals.
“On the other side of the ball, defensively, I think we got caught napping on counter-attacks, on quick cut turnovers. Our transition wasn’t very good and I think there were a couple of individual mistakes.”
The mostly pro-Sounders crowd of 53,309 at CenturyLink Field saw early on what appeared to be the makings of another drubbing at the hands of an English powerhouse.
Romelu Lukaku, a 6-foot-3, 19-year old forward, put Chelsea ahead in the third minute, then Eden Hazard made it 2-0 with a goal in the 11th minute. But instead of the game turning into a blowout, Seattle found itself right back in the game when Montero pounced on a misplayed pass at the top of the box and scored in the 14th minute. Montero added a second goal in the 32nd minute off a Mauro Rosales assist to tie the score at two.
Seattle continued to apply pressure and create good scoring chances, but it was Chelsea that got on the score sheet again, adding goals by Marko Martin in the 40th minute, and a second from Lukaku in the 44th minute. Seattle was unable to stage a second comeback, but despite the loss, it was a much better showing than what transpired a year ago against Man U.
“The speed of play is a little bit faster, for sure, especially the speed of play from a standpoint of when balls turnover,” Schmid said of playing a world-class European team like Chelsea. “And then the quality; that’s why the value of the teams are drastically different.”
The second half didn’t feature a much in the way of scoring chances, but it provided one of the best moments of the night — a classy farewell for Levesque, who in a career that spans back to 2003 with the USL Sounders, became one of the most beloved players in Sounders history.
Levesque checked into the game in the 65th minute and received a huge ovation from fans who were chanting his name and holding up signs that read “Farewell Roger.” As a nice touch, Montero took off the captain’s armband and gave it, along with a hug, to Levesque.
“We all know what this game was about,” Montero said. “He’s retiring, and it was my pleasure to give the captain’s band to him.”
Levesque didn’t have a ton of moments that stood out during his time in the game, aside from that accidental goal-line clearance, which he joked put to rest any doubts he might have had about his decision to retire.
“Right about the time that I blocked Andy Rose’s header from going in — I was a little bit too old to get out of the way — I thought it was maybe the right time to hang ’em up,” Levesque said.
Regardless of the result or anything else that happened on the field, playing his final game in front of more than 50,000 was a moment Levesque always will cherish.
“It really was a great way to go out,” he said. “When you come to the end of something, I find myself thinking back and thinking of the special moments, and this is one that is going to stay with me forever.”
Midfielder Brad Evans left the game with an injury in the 70th minute, and while the severity of the injury was not immediately known, Schmid said it appears to be a slight knee strain. … Steve Zakuani, who missed more than a year of action while recovering from a broken leg, made his second appearance of the season, checking in as an 82nd minute substitute. Zakuani made his 2012 debut earlier this month as a late-game sub against Colorado.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.