After not appearing in Sounders FC’s first 14 matches this season, Garfield High School and Stanford University product Aaron Kovar is finally finding himself in contention for playing time. The 20-year-old Homegrown signing was on the bench for Seattle in a 3-2 win over the Chicago Fire on June 7 before the World Cup break, and on Saturday he made his MLS debut against D.C. United, helping secure a 1-0 win at RFK Stadium.
As he stood on the sideline waiting to be called into action on Saturday, the emotions of playing for his hometown team all struck him at once.
“It was exciting. It was just a rush,” Kovar said. “I’m just happy we got the win and to be a part of that was really special to me.”
His first appearance for Seattle in a competitive match came on June 18 when he started against PSA Elite in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, recording an assist and earning a penalty kick in a 5-0 drubbing of the amateur side. However, he wasn’t without professional experience. As Seattle started its World Cup break, Kovar went on loan to the Orange County Blues and played in two matches for the USL Pro club. With that serving as the precursor to his Seattle debut in the Open Cup, Kovar has continued to show improvement in training and earned his way onto the field with that work.
“Aaron is very consistent in the work he brings to practice and the quality he brings. His valleys aren’t very deep. He stays at a pretty good level. If anything I’ve got to kick him off the field. He would stay on the field for 24 hours if I let him,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “I thought he was really solid. He’s been really consistent. I told him to have some fun and enjoy it. We know he’s got a great fitness level, a great engine. He’s also skillful enough that he can help us in terms of our ball possession.”
The difference over the last few weeks has been palpable for Kovar, who feels the faith put in him by his coaches and teammates.
“I’ve been finding more form and playing better. I think I’ve been training well lately and the coaching staff noticed and I was rewarded for it tonight,” Kovar said. “I’ve been working hard and it feels good that it’s showing results.”
Kovar entered the match on Saturday to replace Marco Pappa, who himself has found a good run of form lately. Like Pappa, Kovar is a left-footed player who provides an offensive spark as a wide midfielder. Now with his MLS debut behind him, he will continue to try to work his way onto the field as an option for Schmid when needed.
“I feel more confident and it’s good. It’s a step forward,” Kovar said. “It’s an addicting feeling and I just want to get it again.”