Mario The Moving Target Image

CCL: Mario Martinez powered Sounders FC’s second band of attack for first time

Seattle Sounders FC broke out a less used 4-5-1 with a band of three against Santos Laguna. Mario Martinez slotted into a similar role he uses for the national team, one for which conventional labels do not matter.

Due to the lack of forwards Sigi Schmid used a 4-2-3-1 against Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League Semifinal match last Tuesday. That shape also played into how Mario Martinez is used with Honduras. Some of the roles and sequences used in the loss may appear in future matches, particularly the interchange in the attacking midfielders and the higher pressure applied by in the defensive phase.

“I wanted [Alex] Caskey to be a little bit higher, he sometimes dropped a little deeper, but I wanted Caskey, [Brad] Evans, and Mario [Martinez] to be like the next attacking group. I thought Evans got in a couple times in the first half, but then there were misplays at key moments,” Coach Sigi Schmid said during the post-match press conference. “Those guys were to join in and link up, but I thought the effort of that group was pretty good.”

That band of three was not static. It shifted quite a bit. If one looks at that the average position map you can see that all three in that band were central. That is because of how the map is generated. When players interchange from wide positions the average will be near the middle.

“When I think about Mario I think about playing against him for Honduras and watching him play for their national team. Their midfielders pretty much float wherever they want,” Evans described Martinez play after Thursday’s practice. “They have a good understanding, because they've done it over and over again. They cover for each other and they play that free role – Mario especially.”

That free role meant that Mario was in many different spaces, but due to lack of practice time together and a language barrier familiarity needs to grow.

“Obviously none of us have played together before. That’s not an excuse at all for the sometimes miscommunication,” Evans said. “I found myself looking to my right and finding Mario standing right here. But the more that we play together the more understanding there will be and the more interchanging will be done.”

There is now time for more familiarity, but only if this is the shape that Seattle puts forward in Torreon. It does maximize Martinez’ abilities. His effectiveness for Honduras is clear. Even in the loss Tuesday night his popping into new spaces put mental pressure on Santos Laguna defenders who needed to account for his crossing and long distance shooting.

Martinez was comfortable in the role, but knows that Tuesday’s performance was not enough.

“Little by little I’m getting more confidence,” Martinez told the media through an interpreter on Thursday. “I have to continue playing that way because I know the team is hoping to get a lot from me. We have to continue to work so things will come out OK in the end.”

He peppered the goal area with crosses and shots from throughout the field. On April 9th those crosses and shots need to result in peppering the keeper and maybe just a couple in the net.