Sports

O'Brien signs with MLS' Real Salt Lake

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Former Federal Way High School soccer star Leighton O’Brien is officially back in Major League Soccer (MLS). Real Salt Lake announced Tuesday the signing of the 29-year-old midfielder.

“Leighton has been an impact player at multiple levels,” Salt Lake General Manager Steve Pastorino said. “We think he is poised to play a significant role in Real Salt Lake’s midfield in 2005 and beyond. We are excited to have him back in MLS.”

O’Brien, who played at the University of San Diego, was in his final year of a three-year contract with the Seattle Sounders before signing with Real Salt Lake, a first-year MLS expansion club.

In 2002, O’Brien earned A-League Most Valuable Player and assist honors when he tallied 13 goals and 11 assists in 27 games with the Sounders.

He competed in three matches for Seattle in 2003 before he was loaned to Bodens BK of the Swedish Supperettna league for two seasons. He was set to rejoin the Sounders this year, before Real Salt Lake came calling.

“His best position is centrally in midfield,” said Salt Lake head coach John Ellinger. “His experience is something you notice right away and tactically he holds the ball very well. There is no doubt he is in the top-three in finishing on our team.”

O’Brien is the son of former Tacoma Star Fran O’Brien and the brother of current Decatur all-stater, Ciaran. He missed a majority of the 2004 season with Boden BK due to a nagging groin injury.

O’Brien is making his second stint in the MLS, the highest professional soccer league in North America, after being drafted by the New England Revolution as the 25th pick in the third round of 1999 MLS College Draft.

“Defensively and offensively he is always in the right position,” Ellinger said. “He’ll definitely play a big role on the team this year either starting or coming off the bench.”

As part of the compensation for O’Brien, Real Salt Lake also announced it will play an exhibition game against the Sounders at Qwest Field in Seattle on Wednesday, May 11 at 7 p.m.

Tickets are currently on sale at www.ticketmaster.com.

“Real Salt Lake is excited to make the trip to Seattle in May to take on one of the most storied names in American soccer — the Sounders,” Pastorino said. “It will represent our first game against a United Soccer League First Division opponent and we look forward to a spirited battle.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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