There was some question last week whether or not Obafemi Martins was ready to take the field to face the Colorado Rapids on Saturday.
Out since the Sounders FC’s March 30 match against Real Salt Lake, he was back in training with the Sounders last week, but limited in some of the sessions.
Even still, he answered any question of his readiness in the affirmative with his 61 minutes in Seattle’s 1-0 victory at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, scoring his first MLS goal along the way.
“He was a real trooper,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said after the match.
After indicating to Schmid leading up to the game that he could play at least 45 minutes, Schmid put him in the starting lineup, taking the place of late-scratch Eddie Johnson. Pairing with Lamar Neagle in Seattle’s attack, Martins made his presence known on the field and in the 27th minute put an exclamation point on the start with his first goal of the season.
After Shalrie Joseph hit a heavy shot from the top of the box, Colorado goalkeeper Clint Irwin made the stop, but was unable to the control the rebound and it spilled to Martins. He faked a shot to get space around defender Marvell Wynne, then took a touch and put the ball away with a right-footed shot for what proved to be the game-winning goal in Seattle's first victory of the season.
“I had to take my time because the defender was in front of me. I had to take my time and control it and it went in,” Martins said after the match. “I was hoping I was going to play and try to score, but the important part is winning. The three points is very important today, so I’m glad.”
After the goal, Martins rejoiced with his signature celebration, turning a backflip that assured even more that his knee was just fine.
“It was my first goal,” he smiled. “I had to do it.”
Schmid agreed, noting the joy that comes with each backflip.
“I’m happy to see it,” he laughed. “Every time I see the backflip, I know we've scored so I'm not worried.”
The Sounders won’t play again until May 4 when they start a two-game road trip with a match at PPL Park against the Philadelphia Union, following it up with a second match on May 8 at Sporting Park against Sporting Kansas City.
In that time, Schmid is hopeful that Martins can improve his health and fitness and possibly pair with Johnson more regularly in training, finally getting the tandem on the field that the club envisioned when they began their pursuit of Martins. Saturday was a good indication of what direction he would send the team into when he reaches 100-percent.
“I think our fans can see what he brings to the table,” Schmid said. “Now we've got two weeks to make sure he's ready, and hopefully he'll show Philadelphia what he brings to the table.”