As soon as he can negotiate a deal with Major League Soccer, Seattle Sounders midfielder Leighton O'Brien will become a member of expansion...

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As soon as he can negotiate a deal with Major League Soccer, Seattle Sounders midfielder Leighton O’Brien will become a member of expansion MLS club Real Salt Lake for the 2005 season.

O’Brien, an eighth-year pro, agreed to a one-year deal with Real Salt Lake but has been haggling with MLS, which finalizes all contracts, for two weeks.

“I’ve been gearing up to get a chance for a while, and I saw it was a good opportunity for me in Salt Lake,” said O’Brien, a 1994 graduate of Federal Way High School who turns 29 today. “I felt prepared even though I was coming off an injury.”

O’Brien spent the 1999 season with the San Jose Earthquakes after being picked up on waivers, but he played sparingly in his only other MLS campaign.

“I feel more prepared now than when I came out of college to play MLS,” O’Brien said. “You can’t rest on your laurels in MLS. You have to fight for your place on your team every day.”

O’Brien’s agent contacted Real Salt Lake coach John Ellinger, and O’Brien has been in training camp with Salt Lake since Feb. 1.

“After four or five days in camp, (Ellinger) liked what he saw and wanted to sign me,” O’Brien said. “When my agent (Bo Kamerele) called him, (Ellinger) knew I had been injured, so he wanted to see what I could do.”

O’Brien, the A-League MVP in 2002, signed an unprecedented three-year deal with the Sounders before the 2003 season. He played just three matches for Seattle before he was loaned to Boden BK, a second-division team in Sweden, for two seasons.

This is the final season of O’Brien’s three-year deal with the Sounders. As compensation for O’Brien signing with Real Salt Lake, the Sounders have an agreement to play an exhibition match against the new MLS club — most likely on May 11 at Qwest Field or Tukwila’s Starfire Sports Complex.

O’Brien missed much of the 2004 season with Boden with a nagging groin injury and went into Salt Lake’s camp still feeling the effects. But he feels healthy now.

“I’m happy to be fit again,” O’Brien said.

Real Salt Lake plays its inaugural game on April 2 at the New Jersey-New York MetroStars.

Salt Lake selected 16-year-old Nik Besagno with the first pick in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft. Besagno grew up in Maple Valley and played at Kennedy High School.