By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
TUCSON, ARIZ. — Mario Martinez didn’t get a training camp with the Sounders last season, as he was signed on loan in August.
He didn’t get a full training camp this season either, as he missed the opening weeks while playing with the Honduras national team.
However, he returned last week and seems to be making up for lost time. Martinez scored his second goal in as many games Wednesday helping the Sounders to a 2-0 win over the New York Red Bulls in the Desert Diamond Cup.
“Last year … it was tough to get him in on a regular basis,” coach Sigi Schmid said. “But you see now his confidence is great. With him being in with us, getting to know the guys, guys know him from last year now, and now it makes it easy to play. Like I told (rookie defender) DeAndre Yedlin: ‘When you’ve got a guy like Mario in front of you, every time you win the ball just play it to him. He won’t mess around with it; he won’t mess it up.’”
Martinez said he appreciates his obligations to both club and country.
“It’s a great honor whenever I go down and play for the national team,” he said, with teammate Servando Carrasco translating. “I take great pride in putting that jersey on. But I also know that I have a responsibility here, and whenever the opportunity presents itself and the coach calls my number, I’ll be ready.”
Schmid waited until the second half to call Martinez’s number Wednesday, as he opened the match with a lineup of reserves, some still trying to earn roster spots.
Still, that group grabbed the lead in the 37th minute when Alex Caskey finished after a Travis Bowen shot had drawn goalkeeper Luis Robles off his line.
Martinez came on in the final 30 minutes, when Schmid decided to give his starters some game work.
“The goal really came out of nothing,” Martinez said. “It was kind of a triangle play between me, Mauro (Rosales) and Steve Zakauani. The ball was in the air and I was contemplating whether or not to hit it, and at the last second I decided to hit it and fortunately it went in.”
The win moved the Sounders to 3-0 in the competition and gives them a date against Real Salt Lake (1-1-1) on Saturday for the Cup championship.
Schmid indicated he will turn that game over to the reserves again, as he plans to use his starters Friday in a friendly against Mexican second-division club Veracruz. That game will serve as preparation for Seattle’s CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal opener against Tigres in Monterrey, Mexico.
The Wednesday match was played with temperatures in the mid-30s and with snowflakes falling at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium.
“It got slick toward the very end, but not so much prior to that,” Schmid said. “Obviously you play in those conditions all the time in Europe, so it’s just a matter of making sure you have the right footware and being smart about what you do and the runs that you make. ? I don’t know: snow in Tucson: Next thing you’re going to tell me is its going to snow in Monterrey when we go there.”
Two new players arrived in camp Wednesday: Shalrie Joseph, who was acquired in a trade on Tuesday, and Stephen Okai, a midfielder who had been taken by Philadelphia with the No. 31 pick in the 2013 SuperDraft. … Sounders FC acquired a 2014 first round Supplemental Draft pick and a conditional 2015 draft pick from the Portland Timbers in exchange for the rights to defender Mikael Silvestre. … Seattle Reign FC has named Sam Laity as the top assistant on Laura Harvey’s coaching staff. He is a native of England and been coaching and serving as director of the junior academy for Pacific Northwest Soccer Club in Tukwila.