SEATTLE — Obafemi Martins flew from Spain to Seattle on Friday, played 20 minutes of soccer on Saturday, and will fly back across the Atlantic Ocean today.
Even Sounders’ general manager Adrian Hanauer thought that seemed a lot of time and effort. But Martins wanted to join his new team immediately, and after his brief Sounders debut Saturday said he was happy – tired, but happy – with his decision.
”I thought it was better to come now and see the place, and I am going to the (Nigeria) national team (next),” Martins said after the Sounders’ 1-1 draw with Portland. “… It was a little bit hard. I went to the embassy and that took a little time for the travel and all. (Hanauer) really wanted me to stay so I can go straight to the national team, but I decided to come straight to see the team and play as soon as possible.”
Martins efforts were acknowledged by Sounders fans, who applauded him when he walked across the pitch to the Seattle bench for the first time.
He finally was sent into the game in the 70th minute. He got a few touches, but no particular scoring chances. His highlight moment came in the 80th minute, when he sent a pass into space in front of the Portland goalmouth, but it rolled just beyond the reach of new teammate Eddie Johnson.
“We wanted to give him the opportunity,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “He wanted the opportunity, as well, because his mind, his spirit, his soul is here and he wants us to succeed and be successful. We didn’t want him to play too many minutes. He laid a great ball across that Eddie was almost on the end of. He hasn’t trained with the team, he doesn’t know the team, per se. He’ll get better, and the things that he can do—his quickness and things like that—will show through.”
Afterward, Martins said he was glad he made the trip, because he now has met and played with his teammates and experienced CenturyLink Field – all important first steps that will be behind him by the time he returns next week.
“It’s not going to be new to me anymore,” he said. “I’m going to try to help the team and score goals.”
Martins won’t be the only Sounder leaving this week for international duty. “We lose a few,” Schmid said. “Mario leaves to go play for Honduras. Eddie leaves to go play for the U.S. Brad (Evans is) on standby – with his injury he’s coming along, but we’ll see. And Oba leaves to play for Nigeria. … It’s frustrating. It just delays it another week because we can’t train together. We need some time right now to train together.” … MLS commissioner Don Garber said in New York that the league is looking into ways of reworking the Sounders’ and Los Angeles Galaxy’s schedules to create space around their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series next month. “I think there’s something being worked on,” Schmid said. “But I don’t know if it’s going to happen.” For now, that stretch lines up this way: March 30 at Real Salt Lake (MLS); April 2 vs. Santos Laguna (CCL); April 7 vs. Chivas USA (MLS); April 9 at Santos Laguna (CCL). … The Sounders and Timbers meet in an MLS Reserve League match at 5 p.m. today at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila.