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Friday, July 23, 2004 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.
By MATT MASSEY
Darren Sawatzky helped put a face on the fledgling Major Soccer League when the organization started in 1996.
Sawatzky gave the new league some raw emotion after he scored a pair of goals on ESPN as his New England Revolution downed D.C. United 2-0 on July 20, 1996.
Sawatzky, a 1991 graduate of Jefferson High School in Federal Way, was an MLS rookie making a name as a goal-scoring forward.
Now, he's a little-used reserve on the Seattle Sounders. Deciding it's time to leave his playing days behind, the 31-year-old Sawatzky told The Times he plans to retire from professional soccer after this season.
"It's time to move on," said Sawatzky, a 10th-year pro and fourth-year Sounders player. "I can still play this game and score goals, but it was decided for me a couple years ago that I wasn't a forward anymore.
"This is a huge time commitment to not play very much."
The blue-collar Sawatzky will never forget his first ESPN game and scoring the first two of six career goals in MLS.
"I'll always remember July 20, 1996," Sawatzky said. "It was in front of a national audience, and I think every person I knew was watching. They had me on 'SportsCenter.' "
Sawatzky walks away from the game as the No. 3 scorer all-time for the Sounders with 78 points on 29 goals and 20 assists.
In his first season with Seattle in 2000, Sawatzky tied for second in A-League in scoring with teammate Greg Howes. Sawatzky registered 41 points on 16 goals and nine assists in 2000.
All this came from a player who was told he would never be good enough to keep ascending in the soccer world.
Tell the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Sawatzky he can't do something, and he'll prove them wrong with hustle and hard work.
"I'm living proof that there's no substitute for hard work," he said.
Sawatzky will continue with his year-round job as training director for the Highline Heat Soccer Club in Burien.
The University of Portland product will enter his second season as an assistant coach for UW this fall. In the spring, he will head into his fourth season as the Jefferson boys soccer coach.
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