By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
The Seattle Sounders acquired one of the highest-profile players in its history Friday and couldn’t wait to show him off.
The club introduced Nigerian striker Obafemi Martins through a press conference near the Sea-Tac Airport baggage claim after his flight from London touched down Friday.
That could be followed by his Major League Soccer debut today, when Seattle meets rival Portland at CenturyLink Field. Martins seemed tired after his flight from London, but said he is ready if called.
“All the traveling, and I’ve not been training for a couple of days now,” he said. “It all depends on the coach anyway. Like I said, I’m ready to play. That’s why I’m here.”
Martins, 28, played 12 seasons in Europe’s top leagues, most recently with Levante of Spain’s La Liga.
He scored 49 goals in 135 competitions with Inter, helping the club to four major championships including the Serie A title in 2005-06. At Newcastle, he scored 35 goals in 104 competitions. He also had his highest-scoring season there in 2006-07 with 17 goals: 11 in the EPL and six in UEFA Champions League.
“When (Sounders sporting director) Chris Henderson came to approach me with my agent, they were talking about coming to MLS to play,” Martins said. “… All of a sudden I just decided to myself, ‘Why not? Let me try and come the different league and all that.’ So that’s why I’m here.”
Martins also has 18 goals in 38 appearances with his national team, and he will fly out again Sunday to rejoin Nigeria for its World Cup qualifier against Kenya next week.
His signing brings Seattle to the MLS roster maximum of three designated players — along with Mauro Rosales and Shalrie Joseph. He becomes the eighth DP in club history, joining Freddie Ljungberg, Blase Nkufo, Alvaro Fernandez, Fredy Montero, Christian Tiffert, Rosales and Joseph.
The Sounders and Santos Laguna open their CONCACAF Champions League semifinal series at 7 p.m. April 2 at CenturyLink Field.
The two-game, aggregate-score series will resolve April 9 at Torreon, Mexico.
Tickets for the home leg go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday.
The winner goes on to meet the winner of the Los Angeles-Monterrey semifinal, which begins April 3 in California and resolve April 10 in Mexico.