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Mario Martinez comes home to face rivals

Mario Martinez played with Real Espana in San Pedro Sula, and their top rivals across town were Marathon.

It’s not often that a player has the opportunity to face his rival twice in five days.

For Sounders FC midfielder Mario Martinez, that is exactly what will happen when the Sounders meet Marathon from Honduras in the third match of the group stage of the 2012-2013 CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

While Martinez played with Real Espana in San Pedro Sula, their top rivals were across town with Marathon and Martinez had plenty of experience playing against them, even joking when he signed with Seattle that he’d have to grow to learn to like the green jerseys, as green is the color of Marathon as well.

All ill feelings of a rivalry aside, Martinez is excited for the opportunity to play in his hometown with his new team.

“It’s not going to be an easy game.  Marathon is a big team.  It is one of the best teams in Honduras.  I’m looking forward to it,” he said.  “I’m going back wearing my Seattle jersey and I’m going to play my hardest for Seattle.”

The trip to Honduras comes just one week after Martinez was in his home country playing with the Honduras National Team in 2014 World Cup qualifying matches against Cuba.  He started and played 90 minutes in a 3-0 win in Havana, Cuba, then in the second match came off the bench for 35 minutes in a 1-0 win.

With that and a run to the quarterfinals in the Olympics boosting his confidence, he can now keep his focus exclusively on the Sounders for the time being.

“It’s really important to be on the national team.  Since you’re so motivated defending your country, you take a lot of the experience with you and it’s an exciting opportunity,” Martinez said.  “It’s very motivating when you get to play for your national team.  It’s something that everybody wants to do.  I have to just keep working hard here to be taken into account for the national team.”

Martinez will be looking to return to the national team next month when Honduras plays their next World Cup qualifier on October 12 against Panama and October 16 against Canada.

As the regular season winds down and the Sounders get ready for the playoffs, they know they can rely on Martinez.  Though just 23-years-old, he’s already shown to be battle-tested.

Before he has a chance to rejoin the national team, he has three crucial games to play for the Sounders in MLS play – a meeting of the top two teams in the West on Saturday against the San Jose Earthquakes at CenturyLink Field, then a pair of derby matches, first on the road against the Vancouver Whitecaps FC and the only home match of the year against the Portland Timbers – a match that is likely to determine the winner of the Cascadia Cup.