TUSCON, Ariz. – Eddie Johnson and Brad Evans had been waiting for over a week to see Mario Martinez in Sounders FC training camp.
When he did arrive, playful barbs flew back and forth between the trio, as they joked about the last time they saw each other in San Pedro Sula, Honduras, when Evans and Johnson’s US squad fell 2-1 to Martinez and Honduras in a World Cup qualifying match.
“The truth is that it’s all in good fun,” Martinez smiled. “It’s just good to be back with the guys.”
Martinez joined the Sounders for the 2013 preseason on Friday after spending the first month of training camp away with the Honduras National Team. There, he has played in five international matches, including four in helping los Catrachos finish second in the Copa Centroamericana to qualify for the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament this summer and one in the World Cup qualifier against the US.
Getting him back in training with the Sounders was a welcome sight in Tucson as the Sounders continue their play in the Desert Diamond Cup with a match against Real Salt Lake on Saturday.
“Mario is a skillful player, so he can do certain things. He gives us another quality player and somebody that adds a different dimension,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s obviously a very confident player right now.”
On Friday, he went through the full training session after spending the last week handling a personal matter in Honduras. Schmid anticipates that he will be available to play on Saturday against Real Salt Lake in the second half with the reserves.
However, that isn’t necessarily a role that Schmid thinks he will occupy for long.
“He’s a guy that is going to be in our starting lineup or play a lot of minutes,” Schmid said.
Martinez, 23, played just 40 minutes in three MLS regular season appearances in 2012 as he missed a lot of time with international duty, but added a crucial goal in the MLS Cup playoffs to lift the Sounders past Real Salt Lake, 1-0 on aggregate, in the Western Conference semifinal series. He remains a regular with Honduras and now has 27 appearances.
“It’s an incredible motivation when I go back home to the national team and I continue to do well,” Martinez said. “I’m going to use that as motivation for this season and when I put on the Seattle Sounders jersey I’m going to do the same thing I do with the national team.”
The Sounders will meet Real Salt Lake on Saturday at 3 pm PT at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium in their second match in the Desert Diamond Cup. They won the first match, 2-0, over the New England Revolution to take the early lead in the tournament standings. RSL drew 2-2 with the New York Red Bulls, putting those two clubs in a tie for second.
Saturday’s match will be streamed live on SoundersFC.com.