After scoring two goals and assisting on another in an 8-1 win for Honduras over Canada in FIFA World Cup qualifying this week, the expectations have risen for Sounders FC midfielder Mario Martinez.
He missed a shot in a shooting drill in his first training session back with the team on Friday and head coach Sigi Schmid was ready with a quip for the 23-year-old Martinez.
“Look, we’re not playing Canada today,” Schmid laughed, much to the chagrin of Canadian forward Babayele Sodade, who scored on the very next opportunity he had.
The Sounders have not had much opportunity to see Martinez at his best yet this year. When he agreed to the loan to Seattle in August, he was in London playing in the Olympics with Honduras. Since joining the Sounders, he has been away with the national team twice for World Cup qualifiers, limiting his time in training with his MLS club.
Those absences and the team’s midfield depth have limited him to a reserve role in MLS matches, where he has made just three appearances, totaling 40 minutes so far. His best chances to see extended playing time came in CONCACAF Champions League matches, where he has one assists in his 151 minutes in wins over Caledonia from Trinidad and Marathon from Honduras.
“Coming in at midseason it’s a little bit harder and positionally we have some options there as well. It’s why we let him go early to Honduras. We wanted him to get those games,” said Schmid, who indicated that Martinez was likely to see extended time again against Marathon next Wednesday in CCL play.
While he has shown his skill at times with the Sounders, he has yet to explode, like he did with Honduras in the Olympics and World Cup qualifying.
However, he remains confident that soon, he will make his mark with the Sounders and help elevate them to another level.
“I’m not worried,” Martinez said on Friday. “The goals will come for Seattle and when they do, it will be great.”
Schmid is confident as well and while the Sounders are a deep club, he expects Martinez to be a key contributor in the season’s final matches and in the postseason.
“He’s somebody that we’re going to need going into the playoffs. He’s a good passer. He combines well. And he’s shown the ability to score goals for his national team as well,” Schmid said. “As he gets more used to the league and our team, he’ll just become better and better.”
Martinez and the Sounders will meet FC Dallas on Sunday in the final home regular season match of the season at CenturyLink Field. That match will kickoff at 6 pm Pacific with national television coverage on ESPN. Then on Wednesday, the Sounders host Marathon in the final match of the group stage of CONCACAF Champions League. The Sounders have already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals with wins in their first three matches of the group stage, but are playing for seeding in the knockout rounds.