Martins sets the tone for Sounders FC with his work ethic and quiet leadership

Obafemi Martins is a man of few words. But when you play your game at full volume like the Sounders FC striker, words are often not necessary. With eight goals and six assists in 18 matches, he has already surpassed his scoring output from his first season in Rave Green and was rewarded with an All-Star selection.

There he will join some of the greats in MLS as they take on Bayern Munich in the 2014 AT&T MLS All-Star Game (6:30 pm PT, ESPN2). For the well-traveled star, it’s an opportunity not to be taken for granted.

“I’m grateful for the fact that I’m here. It’s not everybody that gets to play in the All-Star team,” Martins said from the team’s final training session at Providence Park on Tuesday. “We’re glad that we’re here and we want to play against Bayern Munich. It’s big for us.”

Martins has been an impactful addition since joining Sounders FC last March. Now he is growing more and more cohesive with forward partner Clint Dempsey to form one of the most fearsome strike pairs in MLS.

However, his impact in Seattle goes far beyond his goal-scoring prowess and lethal partnership with Dempsey.

“You can see Clint and Oba combine really well. They have a rhythm and they give each other goals. When two players of that caliber play on the top, everyone follows,” said defender Djimi Traore, who faced off against Martins while Traore was with Portsmouth and Martins was with Newcastle United in the 2008-2009 Premier League season. “He’s a top-class player. Everywhere he’s been, he scores goals. When you’re next to him, you need to play on his level.”

He has been contributing goals at a great rate, with 0.48 goals per 90 minutes, and only one player has outpaced him in both goals and assists this season – LA Galaxy forward Robbie Keane with 12 goals and seven assists.

READ: MLS All-Stars hoping their clash with Bayern Munich will display league's improvement

For all of his many talents, though, he has impressed many in Sounders camp with his work rate.

“Oba has been busy and active up front for us this year. He’s worked very hard. He’s been great with the team and his teammates,” Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid said. “When anybody works, it affects the guy next to him. All of those guys, when they bring their working game out there, it affects everyone else and Oba’s no different.”

He also has proven to be an integral piece to the locker room, not just for his personality, but also his undying desire to win.

“I’m always with him. I can tell you he’s happy to be here. He’s focused on his soccer and he wants to help the team win trophies,” Traore said. “He’s a winner and he’s got a winning mentality. He knows he has a great opportunity this year and we can do it.”

Sounders FC is 12-6-2 through 20 matches this season, and Martins’ contributions are no small reason for that success. As Seattle enters the final 14 matches of the season and pushes toward those goals of the U.S. Open Cup, Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup titles, Martins will continue to be a big factor, his smile telling a greater tale than his words.

“He’s had a joy in his game and a jump in his step,” Schmid said. “We want to see him doing the backflip again soon.”

After returning from the All-Star Game, Martins and his teammates will face the Houston Dynamo on Sunday at CenturyLink Field. Tickets are available at SoundersFC.com and by calling 1-877-MLS-GOAL.

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