The Sounders Thursday signed midfielder Aaron Kovar and forward Sean Okoli to homegrown player contracts, the second and third such players inked by the club in the past two seasons. Kovar is a Garfield High graduate who attended Stanford and Okoli a Federal Way native who attended Wake Forest.
“It’s exciting to have two more (Sounders FC Academy) kids join our team,” said Sounders coach Sigi Schmid. “Being able to add two young and talented players is a good thing. It’s also very important that academy kids can see a pathway onto the first team.”
The 20-year-old Kovar was the Gatorade Washington State Player of the Year in 2011 and earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors in 2012. He started all 15 appearances for Stanford in 2013, ranking second on the team with six assists and earning honorable mention All-Pac-12.
At Garfield, Kovar earned KingCo Conference MVP honors in 2011. He played for the Sounders FC Academy from 2010-2012 and the Sounders U-23s in 2013, and was also called into the U-18 U.S. National Team in 2011. In his first season at Stanford in 2012, Kovar started 12 of 15 appearances, scoring three goals with two assists.
“I feel honored to be part of this club,” said Kovar. “I’ve been a fan since I was 10 years old going to USL games with my dad. 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 excited to be part of my hometown club, to meet all my teammates and get ready for the preseason.”
In three seasons at Wake Forest, Okoli, 20, scored 24 goals with nine assists in 61 appearances. He earned First Team All-ACC honors in 2013, registering a team-high nine goals with three assists. In 2012, Okoli led the team with a career-high 11 goals, and was named Second Team All-ACC and earned NSCAA Player of the Week honors in October.
Okoli graduated from Todd Beamer High School, where he scored 19 goals with 14 assists as a senior. After playing for the Sounders FC Academy, he joined the Sounders U-23s in 2012, where he played for two seasons. Okoli has also played for the United States at the youth levels.
“I’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time,” said Okoli. “I can’t wait to play at CenturyLink in front of all of the fans. I am excited to help the team win games, score goals and really get my career started.”
Kovar and Okoli were the first Sounders Academy players to appear in a MLS Reserve League game. Kovar played the final nine minutes and Okoli the final 12 in a 2-1 win over the Portland Timbers May 30, 2011.