TUKWILA – Just minutes after a successful debut, Sounders FC homegrown player Aaron Kovar was back to being a rookie, and that meant carrying the ball bag to the locker room.
Except this time, after helping set up two goals in the 5-0 victory Wednesday in the U.S. Open Cup, he had another assignment: a postgame interview.
No worries. Kovar, a 20-year-old Seattle native, just slung the heavy bag over his shoulder and started answering questions until teammate Gonzalo Pineda eventually walked by and relieved him of the laborious duty.
“I was just glad to help the team out,” Kovar said.
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Humble words and actions after a breakout performance. The next day, coach Sigi Schmid wasn’t surprised when told how the situation unfolded.
“He knows his place at the moment, so he’s appropriate that way,” Schmid said. “I think that’s why the guys like him, as well.”
This year has been one of patience for Kovar, who signed after two college seasons at Stanford. Playing time had been limited to the MLS Reserve League — often out of position at left fullback — and on loan in the lower divisions before his debut Wednesday.
Kovar made the precious minutes against PSA Elite count as he returned to his preferred position of left midfield. He drew a penalty kick that resulted in the opening goal and then swung in a perfect corner kick that veteran Zach Scott headed in for the second goal to highlight a productive 90 minutes.
“He stepped up and he rose to the occasion,” said Schmid, who has compared Kovar’s skill set to that of midfielder Marco Pappa.
Kovar was the Gatorade State Player of the Year in 2011 following a standout senior season at Garfield High School, and as a Sounders academy player, he would sometimes train with the pros on the first team.
Even then, Scott said, “We knew that this kid had a good left foot.”
Kovar went on to Stanford and was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2012.
Such decorations make it easy to understand why he has called his reserve role for the Sounders an adjustment.
Patience might not have been tested the same at another MLS team, but a competitive training environment has Kovar confident in his development, even if at the expense of playing time.
“You can’t really complain because we’ve done so well and … we’re in first place,” said Kovar, often one of the last players off the practice field with fellow homegrown Sean Okoli.
“I feel really blessed to be a part of that, and I know my time will come.”
Martins uncertain of future
Sounders FC’s Obafemi Martins returned to practice Friday after a vacation for the World Cup break that included a trip to Nigeria. Amid rumors of interest from teams in Turkey, the forward said he has been contacted by other clubs.
Martins, though, indicated he wants to see if he’ll be getting a new contract from Seattle before entertaining offers.
“There are some teams, they’ve been calling me and all that,” he said. “And I’ve been waiting for them to know what it’s going to be like — if I’m going to renew my contract or to move on to go somewhere else. I’m still waiting.”
Martins is making about $1.75 million this season, according to data from the MLS Players Union, and he has been one of the best players in the league. His eight goals and six assists already are one of the most productive seasons from a Sounder.
• Tristan Bowen has been cleared to play after going through the league’s concussion protocol.
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