There are no better ambassadors for Major League Soccer than the league’s players and last week while visiting his fiancée in Milan, Italy, Obafemi Martins was serving a bit as an accidental emissary.
“A lot of people don’t really know about what is going on here in America. They are looking at the Spanish league, the Italian league and England, but they have to come and check it out here because the league is growing very, very fast,” Martins said Tuesday after returning to the team after he was given an extra day to return from the bye week by head coach Sigi Schmid. “For me, MLS is one of the best. The players will have to come and see.”
Helping him in that perspective has been the atmosphere at CenturyLink Field, where the Sounders have shattered MLS attendance records in each of their first four seasons and are averaging 41,501 fans in their six home matches this season. That support is put on display to the country each time the Sounders play on national television and was amplified by the 40,879 in attendance for the US National Team’s 2-0 win over Panama last Tuesday.
“I was very, very surprised when I came to Seattle. I was shocked,” Martins said of the fan support. “Seattle is totally different. It’s just like the Spanish league and England. I was very surprised.”
After a slow start because of a lingering knee injury, Martins has caught fire for the Sounders. He scored his first MLS goal against the Colorado Rapids to propel the Sounders to their first win of the season on April 20, then after missing the next two matches to further recover from the knee troubles, he exploded for three goals and an assist in the next five matches.
Transitioning to his new team while he was in the middle of the season with Levante in the Spanish La Liga was never an easy proposition. And while Schmid contends that Martins’ experience with the varying styles of play in Italy, England, Germany, Russia and Spain helped that transition, Martins said that nothing has come easy to him.
“Nothing is easy,” he said. “I just have to work harder and harder.”
That is why he scheduled a personal workout at the team’s training facility on Wednesday. Knowing that professionalism and that he was coming off of a long season with Levante directly into a lengthy season with the Sounders that could extend into December, Schmid allowed him extra days during the Sounders FC’s break last week.
Like his teammates one day before, he was excited to get back to the training field at Starfire.
“My teammates are like my family. We almost see each other every day in training,” he said. “It’s good to have a break but I’m so excited to be back and I’m ready to go.”