Shane Evans

Cooper and Martins building a productive partnership up front

In two seasons from 2003-2005 at Inter Milan, Obafemi Martins scored 18 goals in 56 league matches.

Then a rising young star for Inter, Martins was pairing with legendary Italian striker Christian Vieri, who had 26 goals in those two seasons. This could be an encouraging stat line for Sounders FC because Martins sees a lot of Vieri in his new strike partner, Kenny Cooper, and that can only mean good things for Seattle.

“We have big potential,” Martins beamed. “He’s a good guy and a good player, too. We hope we play well together.”

The two have already shown a propensity toward complimenting each other in the press, as they work toward complementing each other on the field.

And they are easy compliments thrown both ways.

Cooper is quite accomplished in MLS in his own right. In his first stint in MLS, he tallied 40 goals in 90 games, putting him fifth in the league in scoring from 2006-09 behind the likes of Landon Donovan (52 goals), Jeff Cunningham (47 goals), Juan Pablo Angel (45 goals) and Luciano Emilio (41 goals). This time around, he is sixth in the league in scoring since returning to MLS in 2011, converting 32 goals in 98 matches, putting him behind Chris Wondolowski (54 goals), Alvaro Saborio (40 goals), Thierry Henry (39 goals), Camilo Sanvezzo (39 goals) and Robbie Keane (34 goals).

And Martins established himself among some of the better goal-scorers in every league he has played in, scoring at will in Italy, England, Germany, Russia and Spain before coming to MLS last year.

“He’s incredibly talented and he’s easy to communicate with,” Cooper said. “With each training session and each week that goes by, you get a better understanding of your teammates.”

Cooper and Martins won’t be the only ones vying for goals in 2014 for Seattle though. When Clint Dempsey returns from his loan to Fulham, he will add another tremendous scoring threat to a team that already includes five others who have scored eight or more goals in an MLS season. In addition to Cooper and Martins, Lamar Neagle had a career-best eight goals last season, Marco Pappa nabbed eight goals in 2011 and was well on his way to surpassing that mark before his transfer to Heerenveen in August of 2012. Adding even more depth in the attack, Chad Barrett had nine goals in 2008 and has had seven goals in a season three other times.

Spreading the scoring wealth won’t be a problem for Seattle, though.

“I’ve always been a coach that has been about how many goals we can score as a team,” Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “If you can score goals from multiple sources, then you’re going to score enough goals to win games and win important games. I think you’re harder to break down, you’re harder to figure out and when everybody knows they’ve got a chance to get a goal, they stay more involved and invested in the game.”

Already, Martins and Cooper have proven to be a strong pairing for Seattle in their two preseason appearances together and Martins is showing the jubilation of the player who scored six goals in his first 10 MLS matches.

“I think we’ve been doing well in the preseason and I hope we can continue like this. I’m having fun. It’s good to start the preseason with my teammates,” Martins said. “Preseason is all about training with the team and learning a lot of things with your teammates and getting to know your teammates better. We’re getting used to each other, as well. Not just playing though. As a family. As a team.”

Sounders FC will head to Charleston, SC, on Wednesday to continue preparations for the season-opening match on March 8 against Sporting Kansas City. While Seattle will use that time to build further cohesion, the team is already champing at the bit to get the season started.

“I think we’re ready,” Martins smiled eagerly. “We can’t wait.”