MLS Soccer

Aaron Kovar growing up fast as second-year Sounder

It’s becoming evident that Seattle midfielder Aaron Kovar is growing up fast: On Saturday, he referred to Sounders rookies Darwin Jones and Cristian Roldan as “kids.”

Kovar is 21 and all the way up to his second professional season — although coach Sigi Schmid notes that is a significant step.

“I think second camp is always a little bit easier than first camp,” Schmid said. “You have a better idea of what you need to do it and how you need to apply yourself. So, I think he’s done all right.”

Last year at this time, Kovar and Federal Way native Sean Okoli were being welcomed as Sounders FC’s second and third homegrown players, following Federal Way’s DeAndre Yedlin. Yedlin has since transferred to Tottenham Hotspur of the English Premier League. Additional homegrowns have been added in Jones and Victor Mansaray.

Kovar also got a taste of the sometimes-cold professional game last month, when Okoli’s rights were sent to New England in a draft-day trade.

“It caught me off guard a little bit,” Kovar said. “But at the end of the day, it’s a profession. Sean’s a great player. He’s going to do good things over there, too. This kind of thing happens all the time. The only difference is I guess in my kind of class — DeAndre, Sean, Darwin — we’ve been together for so long, since we were middle schoolers. So I guess that’s the only difference. But I’ve talked to him. He’s happy now. He’s going to do well over there, so I’m not worried about him at all.”

Kovar’s first professional season consisted of just 25 minutes with the first team: three appearances with no starts.

Part of his preparation for this season included a couple of weeks training with English second-division club Sheffield Wednesday.

“I really enjoyed it,” he said. “The weather wasn’t great, which was a bummer. I was supposed to play in a game against Burnley on the last day, but there was too much snow. But it was great. … It was challenging, but it really made me appreciate MLS, honestly. I think this league might not get the respect it might deserve. It made me really appreciate home, and appreciate the new experience.”

OFF TO ARIZONA

The Sounders concluded another phase of local training Saturday with an 11-on-11 scrimmage at Starfire Sports Complex.

“It was good for our fitness to run around,” Schmid said. “There were some good moments. It was a scrappy game. Sometimes there’s good things you saw in some players, and some players obviously there are some things we’d like to see a little better. I thought there were some good goals. There were some good opportunities we need to take maybe a little bit better. But overall I thought it was a good exercise.”

On Sunday, the team will fly to Arizona for two weeks of training and four games in the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson. Seattle’s first match comes at 7 p.m. Wednesday against host club FC Tucson of the USL Premier Development League.

The Sounders return home March 1 to begin game-week preparations for their MLS opener March 8 against New England at CenturyLink Field.

“It’s just a matter of getting game minutes, game fitness,” Schmid said. “In the two games we have so far we’ve held our guys to 45 minutes; and when we get down to Tucson we’ll be pushing guys to 60, 60 to 75, and closer to 90 at the end. The objective is to get games for both groups of players so that everybody gets at least two to three games while we’re down there … and to start working more on our shape and how we’re going to relate to each other out on the field.”

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