Seattle Sounders striker Obafemi Martins bleeds Rave Green.
Clint Dempsey gets a lot of the easy press. Marco Pappa and Chad Marshall have each been the flavor-of-the-month recently. But it is Obafemi Martins who, day in and day out, wins Seattle games. Martins was involved in creating both goals Wednesday night in the Sounders victory over FC Dallas. He now has six assists to go with his four goals in an MVP-caliber season. Maybe Clint Dempsey is playing “better” than him right now, but Martins quality is glaring.
Except Martins’s has gone unnoticed back home. Nigeria national team coach Stephen Keshi recently chose his preliminary 30-man World Cup roster, and ignored Martins. Oba has been on the outs with his national team for a while now, and I don’t want to begin to imagine the politics that must run rampant in some football federations, but Keshi’s decision must hurt. Martins is a consummate professional, having excelled in all the top leagues of the world. He is young, only 29 years old, and has many seasons of high-caliber soccer left in his career. And yet he’ll never see another World Cup. Inexplicably, Martins is a contradiction. He is simultaneously both a star and a has-been. In his prime and performing at an otherworldly pace, he is ignored at home. He toils far from the notice of his countrymen, bringing soccer glory to the Pacific Northwest.
Martins getting jilted by the Super Eagles is great for Seattle. It guarantees that the Sounders have one of their million dollar strikers through their upcoming fixtures. USMNT coach Jurgen Klinsmann will soon release his 30-man roster for a month long pre-World Cup training camp in Palo Alto, California. The Sounders, and every other team with potential national team players, will be without their USMNT stars for at least the next four matches. Nigeria’s loss is Seattle’s gain, as Oba is here to stay.
“Martins is hungry.” – Captain Brad Evans
The fear last year, upon signing Martins, was that we hired a mercenary. Seattle was Oba’s fourth team in as many years. He was talented, but would he truly commit to the Sounders? Seattle fans were rightfully gun-shy after so many one-year-wonder DPs: Ljunberg, Nkufo, Tiffert. The Seattle self-esteem kicks in: is he too good for us, does he have a wandering eye? These fears were flamed when, in the offseason, rumors flew about Martins wanting a transfer to Turkey. Luckily by training camp, Martins was sprinting around Tucson still wearing Rave Green. And he’s done more than dress up the box score, the Designated Player is really connecting with the culture of the Sounders.
Martins is developing into a team leader. Brad Evans, Mr. Sounder himself, recently spoke to Martin’s emergence as a leader, “Oba is a different player this year. He’s hungry. He’s in the gym. He’s involved in the locker room.” Obafemi Martins is committed to the Sounders, and Seattle is happy to have him.