VANCOUVER, BC – 551 days.
That’s how long Brett Levis had to wait between his Major League Soccer debut and his next appearance, which came on Friday night at BC Place.
Levis debuted as a late sub in Vancouver’s 2016 regular season finale – the culmination of an improbable journey from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan – but suffered a torn ACL in his brief cameo that kept him out of MLS action for all of 2017.
A few minor injuries this preseason delayed his return even further. The former Saskatchewan Huskies and Victoria Highlanders star just couldn’t catch a break.
But Levis’ story is one of perseverance. Always has been.
His mom passed away from cancer when he was just 15 years old, which he has referred to as a “defining moment” in both his life and soccer career. He has kept his mom in mind every step of the way as he’s chased his goals.
And now, he can knock another one off the list.
The 25-year-old Canadian made his long-awaited return to the BC Place pitch – and first MLS start – on Friday night as Vancouver Whitecaps FC edged Real Salt Lake 2-0.
“You’re going to hit obstacles,” Levis said when asked to offer up any advice to young players coming from Saskatchewan. “I’ve hit tons throughout my life. The biggest thing is to just not quit and continue doing what you love, and keep pushing. Set goals for yourself and try to reach them, and when you reach them set more.”
Levis said he started to get an inkling of a potential start early this week but didn’t find out for sure until Thursday, when the lineup was confirmed in training. It wasn’t until the national anthems, however, that the moment really started to sink in.
“I was just thinking to myself that this is something that I’ve always wanted, this is something that I dreamt about when I was a little boy,” Levis said. “There wasn’t a single other thing that I wanted but to be a professional soccer player, to play in front of fans, to have little kids and young people look up to me, that’s all I ever wanted and I was just so grateful and happy that I got that opportunity. And obviously with us winning it was even better.”
Levis put in a strong shift in his return from injury, recording three tackles – tied for the team high with Russell Teibert – and winning eight of his nine duels. The midfielder-turned-left back also looked comfortable on the ball, which has always been one of his strengths. In fact, Levis had more passes into the final third than any other Whitecaps FC player.
And this was all in 62 minutes of action.
“Honestly, I felt great, minus [when] I started cramping a little bit which is a problem I’ve had throughout my entire career,” said Levis, who was replaced by Alphonso Davies. “I don’t know if it was nervous cramps, I don’t know what it was. Other than that, I feel great. I just have to get used to the pace and the speed of everything, and I think that I’ll be able to get through 90 soon.”
And this time, he probably won’t have to wait 551 days.
“Brett Levis put in a really strong performance,” said Whitecaps FC head coach Carl Robinson. “If he’s fine next week, then it’s his position.”