In 20 minutes of play as a sub against the Timbers, Obafemi Martins showed glimpses of what he will bring to the pitch for Sounders FC. His flashes of speed popped up in the box and on the flank. His passing was effective across a range of distances, one nearly won the game.
But there was also some unfamiliarity between him and his teammates. Martins had not practiced with the men in Rave Green yet at that point. This week that changes. The Nigerian forward is present and focused on being a Sounder not upcoming national team games.
“I have to focus on Sounders FC first. They are my team and I look towards that.”
Though he wore the number nine for Newcastle, where the kit number is not just a number, but a style of play, Martins says that you will not see that style from him here in Seattle, “It’s not the same how they play in Newcastle and here. It’s different tactics and all that. I’m ready to go. I’m trying my best to help the team, trying to win and score goals.”
Strike partner Eddie Johnson and Martins will do that by forcing defense into choosing how they will defend two of the fastest forwards in the league.
“I think it changes things for the opponents’ defense. I think they’ve got to be more aware. Do they want to play a high line? Do they want to take that risk? Do they drop off a bit more because they respect the speed? If they drop off that gives us a little more space to play,” Coach Sigi Schmid explained the oppositions’ quandary.
“We’ve really got to see how the opponent reacts and that will show us what we can do. If they play a high line we can use the speed to our advantage. If they drop off because they don’t want to get exposed speed-wise then we have more space to play in front of them. I think we have enough quality to do that. So we can do whatever they give us. That’s always the key in soccer. You’ve got to be able to beat a team at what they give you. You’re not always going to be able to get the same thing every week.”
There’s another speed option for Seattle as well. It is not just the forwards that get to take advantage of a high line or the gap between bands. Steve Zakuani thinks that the counter will become even more effective.
“We have to utilize it. The one goal we did score this season I believe came off of our ability to counterattack. That’s going to be a big strength of ours,” Zakuani said. “We’ve given up a goal in every game, but we’ve been good defensively over all. I think counterattacks are going to be a big part of our game with the guys we have running forward. It’s going to be amazing. It’s great.”
It will take a few practices (Martins will have two prior to Saturday) and a couple games (Saturday at Real Salt Lake and Tuesday in the friendly confines of CenturyLink Field against Santos Laguna) before the attack reaches its full potency, but it begins with that first practice, that first start. Then relationships develop.
“I know Eddie with my eyes closed now. I know how Eddie’s going to run when I have the ball with me. Oba, I have to learn from him,” Zakuani explained. “I think after a few trainings and a few games I will see what he likes to do. Everybody is different. I have to adjust to him. He has to adjust to me and the other guys on the team and make it gel as a team. I think that when you have quality like he does it will be easy.”
On Saturday, March 30th at 6 p.m. PT Sounders FC take on Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto. You can watch on KONG 6/16 or KOMO2 (Español), listen on KIRO Radio 97.3 or La Gran D 99.3 FM and follow along live on SoundersFC.com.