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Saturday, February 7, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Sounders

Notebook: O'Brien to play again for Swedish pro club

Special to The Seattle Times

When the Seattle Sounders signed midfielder Leighton O'Brien to a three-year contract with a club option for a fourth season, it appeared his future was in Seattle.

It has been anything but the case since that deal was completed before the 2003 season.

O'Brien, the 2002 A-League most valuable player, will spend 2004 on loan to Boden, a second-division pro club in Sweden with which he played last season as well.

O'Brien played in three Sounders matches in 2003 before leaving for Sweden.

"I had a good year over there," said O'Brien, who had six goals and nine assists in 23 matches and was named Norbotten County Player of the Year by Swedish sportswriters.

O'Brien, 27, who currently is playing with the Major Indoor Soccer League's Milwaukee Wave, helped Boden to a 10-11-9 record in 2003. Boden finished with 39 points, good for 11th place in the 16-team Superettan League.

The Irish-born player, who graduated from Federal Way High School in 1994, does want to play again in Seattle.

"I want to finish my career in Seattle someday," O'Brien said. "I love Seattle, and the Sounders have been very good to me."

During O'Brien's absence in 2003, the Sounders reached the A-League's Western Conference finals and finished 20-10-7 overall, winning the Pacific Division for a second straight year.

In his last full season with the Sounders, O'Brien posted the third-best point total in the A-League with 37 points on 13 goals and a league-high 11 assists. Seattle finished that season 23-4-1, the second-best regular-season record in league history.

Notes

• The Sounders signed Billy Sleeth, a former University of Washington defender/midfielder

Sleeth, 24, was the 10th overall pick in the 2002 Major League Soccer draft by the Chicago Fire. He played 13 matches for the Fire, then was selected by the Colorado Rapids in the 2002 waiver draft

In training camp for the 2003 season, Sleeth suffered a broken foot that required surgery. Three weeks later, he broke the same foot and had surgery again.

"I am now totally recovered from the injuries and excited to play," Sleeth said.

The Spokane native and 1998 graduate of Ferris High School played for the Seattle Sounders Select team in 2000 and 2001.

• Seattle has interest in UW product Wes Hart, a midfielder/defender who played 29 games with the Rapids in 2003. Hart, a free agent, is entering his fifth season as a pro.

The Sounders also are interested in Per Johansson, who played midfield alongside O'Brien with Boden in 2003.

Thiago Martins, the A-League's top scorer in 2003, is in camp with D.C. United of MLS.

Martins, a forward, had 51 points on 22 goals and seven assists for the Pittsburgh Riverhounds in 2003.

Copyright © 2004 The Seattle Times Company

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