Brotherly love: O’Briens switch places for the Sounders

Ciaran O’Brien steps in for older brother after injury

The Seattle Sounders professional soccer team has lost one O’Brien brother, but added the other one earlier this week.

After Federal Way High School graduate Leighton O’Brien fractured a bone in his right arm during Seattle’s 1-0 win over Charleston last Saturday, the Sounders added his 20-year-old brother, Ciaran, to their roster. Ciaran is on loan to Seattle from Major League Soccer’s Colorado Rapids.

The 32-year-old Leighton O’Brien, an 11-year Sounders’ veteran, fractured his right radius in a 1-0 United Soccer Leagues First Division win over first-place Charleston Saturday. The team’s midfield playmaker underwent successful surgery on Tuesday and could miss four to eight weeks. On the season, he had played in 14 games for Seattle and tallied four goals and two assists.

The injury to Leighton O’Brien couldn’t have come at a worst time for the Sounders. Seattle is currently 6-6-8 in USL play and sit in fifth place in the 12-team league. The Sounders have 10 more games during the regular season.

But Leighton’s injury meant the homecoming of his younger brother, Ciaran O’Brien. The Decatur High School graduate will take over for Leighton on the Sounders’ roster after being loaned to Seattle from the Colorado Rapids.

“It’s great to be back home and be able to play some games,” O’Brien told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “I know how they play, I’ve watched them over the years and I’m a huge fan. That makes a difference — I’m passionate about the Sounders. Coming here is perfect. It’s what I need.”

Following the broken arm, Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer got a phone call from Colorado head coach Fernando Clavijo. Clavijo offered to loan the younger O’Brien, who has played in just one game for the Rapids during the 2008 season, after hearing Leighton was injured. Schmetzer and Clavijo used to play together on the Sounders. Ciaran O’Brien joined Sounders training on Tuesday the the Rapids can recall him at any time.

After graduating from Decatur in 2006, O’Brien played one season at the University of San Diego before transferring to the University of California — Santa Barbara. After playing one year in Santa Barbara, O’Brien was the fifth overall selection in January’s MLS Super Draft by Colorado. But he has only played in one match for the Rapids during the MLS regular season and it was a memorable one.

O’Brien played only nine minutes in a game against the Los Angeles Galaxy in early April before being sent off after a hard foul.

Following the foul, Los Angeles midfielder Landon Donovan, the international star and America’s all-time leading scorer, ran in and pushed O’Brien in the chest and put a hand to his throat before other players intervened and separated the two. One of those “other players” just happened to be Galaxy midfielder David Beckham.

Since April, all of O’Brien’s playing time has come on the Rapids’ Reserve Team. He has played in five reserve matches during the MLS season. Colorado’s reserves are currently 2-2-2 and O’Brien has played in 405 minutes and yet to tally a goal or assist.

Now in its fourth year, the MLS Reserve Division is a key component of Major League Soccer’s drive to develop players in a professional, competitive atmosphere. The MLS Reserve Division allows teams to provide meaningful competitive matches to players who are outside of the starting 11 players.

The Sounders next match will be Thursday against the Portland Timbers in Oregon. Seattle’s next home game will be Aug. 15 against the Puerto Rico Islanders.

In other soccer news:

• Seattle Sounders FC, in cooperation with Washington Youth Soccer, introduced their new Youth Development Program (YDP) last week. The MLS team, which will start play next year, will run the YDP for boys and girls ages 8-17 in six-week increments at Starfire Sports Complex in Tukwila.

“We look forward to helping youth soccer grow in the years to come,” said Sounders FC/Washington Youth Soccer Director of Youth Development and current Sounders Assistant Coach Darren Sawatzky. “With the excitement of the new MLS team coming to town, both Washington Youth Soccer and the Seattle Sounders FC want to serve the youth soccer community the best way possible.”

Sawatzky graduated from Thomas Jefferson in 1991 and coached the Raiders to the Class 4A state championship in 2005.

The price per six-week session is $200. Each participant receives a Sounders FC YDP jersey, shorts and socks to be worn at each training session. Registration is currently underway for an Aug. 11 start date.

For more information, contact Sawatzky at (206) 622-3415 ext. 122 or To register for the Youth Development Program or Position Specific Training please visit or

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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