Sounders pleased to borrow

(June 20, 2008) - As the No. 1 pick in the 2005 Major League Soccer SuperDraft, Nik Besagno felt the pressure from the start.

Even before the 16-year-old stepped on the pitch for then- expansion club Real Salt Lake, expectations piled high.

Besagno, who grew up in Maple Valley, sits at a pro soccer crossroads having played sparingly in 3-½ seasons in Salt Lake.

Now a mature, introspective 19-year-old, Besagno can re-claim his pro career while on loan from Real Salt Lake of MLS for 90 days with the Seattle Sounders of the United Soccer Leagues (USL) First Division.

This Sounders' tour of duty, which began on June 11 and runs until Sept. 6, could rescue his stagnant career. The loan could give Besagno the opportunity he needs after playing in just eight matches in three-plus seasons with Real Salt Lake. He hopes removing himself temporarily from Salt Lake's glut at midfielder and defender will spark his career.

"You always want to be, no matter what job, part of the team and part of the success and making a difference," said Besagno, who will see his first USL action for the Sounders (4-5-2) in tonight's 7 p.m. home match against Miami FC at Starfire Sports & Entertainment Complex.

Besagno, who will stay with former Sounder and brother Jacob in his West Seattle home while on loan, will get what he needs to prove his worth in Seattle, and that's playing time.

"Sitting on the bench wasn't doing him any good," said Garth Lagerwey, Real Salt Lake general manager. "For him to get games with a high-quality team like Seattle, that's a good thing. We can recall him any time if we need him."

The 6-foot, 188-pounder began his Seattle stint with about a minute of action in a 1-0 overtime win over the Arizona Sahuaros in the first round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and then he came back for 90 minutes in a 3-1 exhibition triumph over Italian youth club Juventus Primavera.

Sounders managing partner Adrian Hanauer and coach Brian Schmetzer always liked the local product.

"He's a local guy and his brother played with us, so we stayed in touch with Real Salt Lake about Nik," said Hanauer, who is planning ahead for Seattle Sounders FC debut in MLS in 2009. "Our lineup got decimated with injuries, so we called Garth Lagerwey about him and they were amenable to loaning him to us.

"He's a great kid. He's a hard worker and a tough player. And he's still young. We think he has big potential."

Besagno spent the final months of the 2007 season in Salt Lake recovering from a torn meniscus in his right knee.

While the holding midfielder said he isn't satisfied with where he is at in his career, the early bumps haven't changed Besagno's love for the game. "At the end of the day, it's tough, but I'm not sour," he said.

"Until I realize I can't play, I'll keep playing. There's nothing that will stop me from loving the game. It's the only sport I've ever played. I've loved it from first time I touched a soccer ball."

By no means is Real Salt Lake giving up on Besagno, the franchise's first-ever draft choice, but he must produce.

Lagerwey hopes game time in Seattle produces a new Nik, who left at 15 in the middle of his sophomore year at Kennedy High School to join the U.S. U-17 residency program.

"I was getting to experience something very few people get to do," Besagno said. "But once you're at the professional level, it's survival."

Besagno, who makes $136,500 this season with Real Salt Lake, still remembers that first practice, his welcoming to MLS.

"The first day was an eye-opener. I got beat up pretty bad," he said. "It was kind of a welcome to the league. I knew I'd be fighting for every minute."