The Sounders had scouted Mario Martinez plenty. They also saw his performance with Honduras in the London Olympics, helping his country reach the quarterfinals, where they fell to Brazil.
They knew what kind of player was joining the club when they signed him. However, on Friday during his first training session with the team, head coach Sigi Schmid was clearly happy with what he saw.
“He’s got a good touch. He wasn’t afraid of asking for the ball when he was out there on the field,” Schmid said. “We need to give him time to acclimate and get used to everything, but I’m sure he’ll get on the field.”
Though he officially joined the team on loan on August 1, Martinez delayed joining the team while playing in the Olympics, then also played in a friendly for Honduras on Wednesday against Boca Juniors in Miami. In the meantime, though, he heard plenty from Honduras teammates Roger Espinoza and Andy Najar about the organization he was joining.
“I have heard really good things about this team,” Martinez said through a translator. “I talked to Espinoza and Najar and they both said great things about the organization and I’m hoping to take advantage of the opportunity because I’ve heard it’s a great place to be.”
Martinez is just the latest in a string of players from Honduras coming to Major League Soccer.
In addition to Espinoza with Sporting Kansas City and Najar with DC United, the New England Revolution have gotten great production from Jerry Bengtson in his three matches with the team before leaving for the Olympics himself and the San Jose Earthquakes feature defender Victor Bernardez and midfielder Marvin Chavez.
Continuing that trend of successful Hondurans in MLS is one goal of Martinez, who may make his Sounders debut on Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC at CenturyLink Field.
“People in Honduras are excited. They know a little bit about the league because Hondurans have come to play here and what’s exciting is that every time a Honduran player comes, it opens the door for another player,” he said. “I hope to do a good job in Seattle to keep that door open for another player to come in the future.”
A left-footed player, Martinez can play any of the attacking roles out of the midfield and has been used as a second striker as well. Though just 23 years old, he brings plenty of experience to the team after six seasons with Real Espana in Honduras, where he also played in CONCACAF Champions League last year, where he had one goal and three assists for Real Espana, his goal coming against finalists Santos Laguna.
While the Sounders have a strong stable of players in those roles, Martinez will have a battle for playing time on his hands. However Schmid is sure that the 23-year-old will have no problem finding minutes despite those competitions.
“There’s got to be competition everywhere on the field,” Schmid said. “Guys that are playing well are going to step on the field and play.”
Kickoff for Saturday’s match is at 1 pm Pacific with television coverage on KING 5 and the radio broadcast on 97.3 KIRO FM.
Before the match, the Sounders FC and American Red Cross are teaming up to raise money for those affected by the Taylor Bridge Fire in Eastern Washington. Volunteers from the club’s five community partners will be accepting donations at all of the gates at CenturyLink Field and will collect donations through halftime. For more information, visit www.seattleredcross.org.