The Seattle Sounders remain in their busiest stretch of the season, and they’re getting through by elevating some less familiar faces up their roster.
Midfielder Andy Rose has played in three consecutive games after losing much of the season to injuries. And with Seattle pushing for a tying goal Saturday in what turned out to be a 2-1 loss at Real Salt Lake, coach Sigi Schmid sent on homegrown rookie Aaron Kovar for the final push.
“We know (Kovar) is going to work very hard,” Schmid said. “We know he can serve the ball, so we figured with Andy Rose being able to push in there, (and with Kenny) Cooper in there, that if we could get some service late in the game from Kovar that would help us.”
All three of those players were on the pitch through the crucial final minutes of an important game at least partly because of absences. Cooper started in place of Obafemi Martins, who was serving a red card suspension. Rose came on at halftime after Brad Evans suffered a hamstring injury. And Kovar was asked to fill a role Schmid said is usually handled by Marco Pappa, who didn’t travel to Utah because of a hamstring injury.
Still, the move seemed to mark progress for Kovar, who was appearing in just his third Major League Soccer match.
“I work really hard at training every day,” he said. “These are the kinds of games you want to make try to make an impact. I just tried to work as hard as I could. I’m glad I was able to play, but we’re all pretty upset about the result.”
Rose appeared in 44 regular season and postseason games over his first two MLS seasons. However, a pair of injuries have limited his third season to one start and five appearances before Saturday. One of those was a one-minute showing Aug. 10 against Houston, which marked his first playing time since May.
“I thought in preseason I was playing very well,” he said last week. “Unfortunately (I had meniscus surgery in June) and then a bad hamstring injury at the beginning of the season. But in training I felt great. I felt really good the last two or three weeks. And I knew if I kept on doing that, a chance would come, and obviously to take advantage of it.”
Rose did that Wednesday, when he scored two goals in Seattle’s 6-0 rout of the Chicago Fire in the U.S. Open Cup semifinal. Those were his first goals since June 2013. Then he played 45 minutes at Salt Lake, playing outside midfield instead of his usual central role.
“Ninety minutes at Starfire, I was definitely sore,” he said. “That turf can be tough. But I felt fine (Saturday). I’m usually pretty good with the recovery and whatnot. I take care of my body. This is a tough place to come and play: altitude and the heat. But no excuses, I’m fine.”
The bump in minutes could continue for each, as there is no letup in a run of schedule that has Seattle playing five games in 14 days. The final two matches are coming up quickly, with a home game against the San Jose Earthquakes at 7 p.m. Wednesday and an afternoon visit to Portland on Sunday.
Martins is eligible to return for those games, but the status of Pappa and Evans is unclear as the team returns to training Monday.