TUKWILA — After setting up the first two goals of Seattle Sounders FC’s 5-0 win in the U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday, rookie Aaron Kovar slung a team ball bag over his shoulder and dutifully walked it out of Starfire Sports Stadium and to the team locker area.
“He’s conscientious about that,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s got his feet firmly on the ground. He’s humble, and he knows his place. So he’s appropriate that way, and I think that’s why the guys like him, as well.”
For most of Kovar’s first professional season, his place has been on the training field and in reserve games. However, his midfield performance against amateur club PSA Elite could be a step toward changing that.
Kovar set up the Sounders’ first goal by intercepting a pass and carrying the ball into the penalty area, where he drew the foul that set up Brad Evans’ penalty kick.
A few minutes later, Kovar put a corner kick on the head of Zach Scott, who knocked it into the net.
“I was just glad to help the team out today, whether it was crossing or trying to get in set pieces and stuff,” Kovar said after the match. “It’s not very hard to hit corners when you have guys like Zach, Cam (Weaver) and Kenny Cooper. (They are) big targets, and I just put it in an area where they could get to it.”
Kovar, 20, is a Seattle native and a product of Garfield High School and the Sounders FC Academy.
He played two seasons at Stanford, where he was named the 2012 Pac-12 Conference freshman of the year. He signed Jan. 8 with the Sounders as a homegrown player.
Until last week, his professional game experience had been limited to 450 minutes in five Major League Soccer Reserve League appearances, recording two assists.
“It’s an adjustment,” Kovar said. “And you just kind of have to realize that you’re part of a team, and in this team, you can’t really complain because the first team is winning, and we’re in first place. So I feel really blessed to be a part of that, and I know my time will come. …
“Even if I’m not getting as many games, I’m getting a lot better every day.”
The Sounders also got Kovar some extra minutes by sending him on loan to the Orange County Blues of USL Pro, where he picked up an additional 123 minutes over two matches.
“He will continue to build,” Schmid said. “He’s got Marco Pappa in front of him right now, but he is a Marco Pappa-type of player. He can play with that sort of skill set as Marco plays, and he’s a guy who will continue to get minutes as we move forward.”
The Sounders returned to training Sunday for their fifth-round U.S. Open Cup match against the San Jose Earthquakes on Tuesday night at Starfire. Schmid said he expects both teams to field something close to first-11 lineups. … Slowed by a variety of small injuries before the MLS break, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso is training close to 100 percent now, Schmid said.Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer