If Thursday’s announcement that he had signed with Sounders FC was a dream come true, then this year is bound to be full of fantasy moments for newly-signed Homegrown Player Aaron Kovar.
“I lived five minutes from CenturyLink Field. I went to school in Seattle. I’ve lived in Seattle my whole life,” said the 20-year-old Garfield High School product who signed along with Sean Okoli to run Seattle’s list of Homegrown Player signings to three. “I’ve really known nothing but, so I’m proud to have the opportunity to play for this club.”
Since 2009, many players have envisioned themselves playing in front of the record-setting, awe-inspiring crowds at CenturyLink Field. However, Kovar’s dream came well before Sounders FC’s 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls in the club’s inaugural match five years ago.
A midfielder with a left foot that is bound to be filled with assists, Kovar started watching the Sounders in the A-League as a 10-year-old, watching the likes of Leighton O’Brien, Andrew Gregor and Hugo Alcaraz-Cuellar man the position that would eventually become his. Along the way, he saw his hometown team win two titles in the second division.
Now part of the team he has watched in the stands with friends, family, classmates and neighbors over the years, he looks up from his locker at Starfire and can’t contain the smile on his face knowing that he is teammates with the players he has been watching and cheering for all this time.
“I’ve known a lot of these guys for a couple of years now and I’m really excited to start,” he said.
At Stanford, Kovar was a standout player in each of his two seasons, earning Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2012 and Honorable Mention All-Pac-12 honors in 2013. He finished his career with five goals and eight assists in 36 matches for the Cardinal. It was his dramatic late goal against California in the final regular season match of the season that earned Stanford a berth in the NCAA Tournament, where it won two matches before falling to the University of Washington in the third round.
While it was difficult for Kovar to leave behind the college life at Stanford, he also knows that he still will have the opportunity to go back and get his degree when his soccer career is over.
“Stanford has so many great athletes in all different sports, so they deal with this kind of thing a lot. I’m technically just on a leave of absence and when I’m done playing I’m going to finish up there. I’m excited about that and the club has been really supportive of my education,” Kovar said. “It’s obviously a difficult decision, but this has been my dream for as long as I can remember and I’ve worked really hard to get here. I’m just excited to be part of my hometown club.”
Kovar and Okoli join 2013 MLS All-Star DeAndre Yedlin as Sounders FC’s three Homegrown Players. Kovar, a Garfield High School product, talked about how his style of play fits with Seattle’s personnel and how much he appreciated the tutelage of his coaches along the way, including Darren Sawatzky, Pete Fewing and Jeremy Gunn. However, even in his most thoughtful of comments, the smile returns to his face when the prospect of playing for Sounders FC crosses his mind.
“I wouldn’t want to be at any other club,” he said. “I just love it here and I’m excited to play in front of 45,000 people every game.”
Kovar and the Sounders will start training camp on January 25 and play the first regular season match on March 8 at CenturyLink Field against Sporting Kansas City.