SEATTLE — Snubbed from a World Cup camp invite by Nigeria, Obafemi Martins was determined not to sulk about missing out on a trip to Brazil.
Martins said earlier this week his World Cup is the next two months playing for the Seattle Sounders. And it started with his finest goal since joining Major League Soccer.
“I just want to score goals,” Martins said. “That’s what I did and I’m glad.”
Martins scored in the eighth minute to give the Sounders a 1-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night as both teams began a possible two-month stretch with some of the top players in the league off competing at the World Cup.
Martins’ goal will be in the discussion for best of the season as the year progresses. His goal came from a shallow angle just 4 yards off the end line. Instead of settling Gonzalo Pineda’s pass, Martins chipped the one-hopper with his left foot over San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch and just inside the far post. It was the fifth goal of the season for Martins.
Instead of the usual backflip that has accompanied his previous goals, Martins simply shook his head possibly a little surprised his difficult attempt found the net.
“It’s an athletic ability. You can’t teach that. It’s something that somebody has,” Seattle coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s definitely as good a goal that’s been scored here.”
Busch said shots from that shallow an angle usually end up coming at the near post or end up on top of the net.
“So now he finds the back post. Tip your hat to him. Nothing you can do,” Busch said. “Doesn’t matter who you are or where you play, that’s a good goal.”
The Sounders (8-3-1), who remained the MLS points leader, opened the whole stadium for the first time this year and drew 49,746, the largest crowd for any MLS game this season.
Seattle was without three U.S. World Cup hopefuls, while the Earthquakes were minus two. Clint Dempsey, Brad Evans and DeAndre Yedlin were gone for Seattle and San Jose (2-4-4) played without Chris Wondolowski and Clarence Goodson. Also gone for the Earthquakes was Honduran hopeful Victor Bernardez.
The Sounders could have been without Martins as well, but he was not selected to join Nigeria for its World Cup camp. Teaming with Dempsey at the top of Seattle’s attack, Martins has a resume this season that would have been worthy of a call. Instead he’s being asked to be the offensive catalyst for Seattle with Dempsey gone.
Seattle controlled the match and likely should have scored two or three more times if not for stellar goalkeeping by Busch. He stopped attempts from Lamar Neagle twice in a seven-minute span of the second half and turned away Osvaldo Alonso’s attempt in the 84th minute.
“My job is to make saves and keep us in the game. I did my job,” Busch said.
All the shots being peppered toward Busch made for a quiet night at the other end for Seattle’s Stefan Frei. With Wondolowski and Bernardez gone, the Earthquakes were missing seven of the 11 goals they have scored this season. The only player in San Jose’s starting lineup with a goal was midfielder Cordell Cato.
San Jose’s only official shot on goal came on a free kick in the 90th minute from Khari Stephenson that Frei smothered. It was the second shutout of the season for Seattle and important after giving up five goals last Sunday to New England.
“The commitment of the team this week after last week was playing to zero,” Schmid said.