Decatur's O'Brien highlights 2004 soccer team


Sports editor

Decatur sophomore Ciaran O’Brien couldn’t help but play soccer.

The sport is a way of life in the O’Brien house. His father, Fran, came to the United States from Ireland and played in the North American Soccer League and also for the Tacoma Stars and Dallas Sidekicks of the now defunct Major Indoor Soccer League.

His older brother, Layton, is currently playing professional soccer in Sweden after two years with the Seattle Sounders. Layton was an all-state player at Federal Way High School.

“He basically came out of the womb with a soccer ball,” said Jefferson coach Darren Sawatzky, who played with Layton on the Sounders. “He grew up in a professional household and that gives him a little bit of an advantage over other guys.”

The advantage was evident during O’Brien’s sophomore season on the Decatur Gator soccer team. That’s why O’Brien headlines the Federal Way Mirror’s 2004 All-City Boys Soccer Team after leading the Gators to a share of the South Puget Sound League championship.

From his center-midfield position, O’Brien tallied 11 goals and four assists during his abbreviated season. The sophomore missed a handful of games in the early part of the year thanks to an injury and a trip to Germany to play on the United States Olympic Development West Region squad.

“Layton was very good at making the players around him better and Ciaran does the same thing,” Sawatzky said. “He has eyes all around his head and he strikes a good ball.”

The 2004 soccer season was a strange one in Federal Way. For the first time since the 1990s, a team from the district failed to make it into the first round of the state tournament. Decatur, Jefferson and Beamer all lost West Central/Southwest District games by one goal two weeks ago.

But the season-ending results weren’t because of a lack of individual talent within the district.

Joining O’Brien in the midfield on the All-City Team are Jefferson’s Lamar Neagle, Calvin Walsh and Skyler Kimball and Beamer freshman Sean Davis. The frontline is made up of Jefferson senior Ricky Getchell (16 goals) and junior Rafael Velazquez (eight goals), Beamer junior Ryan Nendick, who had a hat trick against Bellarmine Prep in one of the most exciting games in the state this season at districts, Decatur’s Josh Norwood and Federal Way’s leading scorer Chris Ranch.

The defenders on the All-City Team are Jefferson’s Brandon Sprague and Nick Wood, Decatur’s Brad Reid and James Craig and Beamer’s Brennen Hall. The goalkeeper is Decatur senior Kyle Bressler, who was the starter on three league championship teams and the Gators’ back-to-back state titles in 2001 and 2002.

The Mirror’s Coach of the Year is Beamer head man Adam Kulaas, who led the first-year Titans to fourth place in the rugged SPSL South (8-8-1 overall and 5-4 in league) before beating Auburn Riverside at the SPSL Tournament. Beamer went on to lose in overtime to perennial soccer power Bellarmine 5-4 in overtime at districts.

“He took a group of freshman and sophomores into the postseason,” Sawatzky said. “He deserves it.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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