Upcoming stretch may get Martinez back into the mix

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comApril 7, 2013 

Less than a year into his Seattle Sounders FC career, Mario Martinez has shown flashes.

What he has not been able to show is consistency – because he hasn’t been around consistently.

That might be about to change. The Seattle midfielder is back from duty with the Honduras national team and could be set for his longest run of training since he joined his new club last summer.

“I came over here to play,” Martinez said last week through a translator. “Now that I’m here and getting a chance to play, I have to take advantage of that.”

Martinez was acquired July 27, 2012, on loan from Real España of Honduras. However, duty with his national team in Copa Centroamericana, the Olympics and World Cup qualifiers have kept him from playing or even practicing much with the Sounders. Last season, he appeared in three regular-season games and all four postseason games.

In the most memorable of those, he scorched home the deciding goal in the first-round victory at Real Salt Lake that gave the Sounders to their first playoff series triumph.

The goal was not only important, but it also was so brilliantly struck that coach Sigi Schmid speculated on how much Martinez might provide this season, when he had enough training time to develop rhythm with his teammates.

Things haven’t quite worked out that way. Martinez missed almost all preseason while away with his national team. He has played in five Sounders games across all competitions. But those were broken up last month by his departure to join Honduras for its World Cup qualifying matches against Mexico and Panama.

Martinez was back in rave green last week, playing 90 minutes in the 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League semifinal loss to Santos Laguna. And he is expected to be available again Tuesday, when the series resolves in Torreon, Mexico.

That may be just the start, because Honduras doesn’t return to World Cup qualifying until June, and much of his international duty will coincide with breaks in the MLS schedule.

“It’s important for all of us to understanding each other’s tendencies: When is he going to beat the guy inside, when is he going to beat the guy outside,” Schmid said. “Teams have bunkered in a little bit against us, and in the games teams have been organized … our ability to break down an organized defense hasn’t quite been good enough because that’s where you really need an understanding and cohesion.”

Honduras is 1-1-1 through three matches in this 10-game round of World Cup qualifying. That is just behind Panama, the same as Costa Rica and the United States, but ahead of Mexico and Jamaica.

“It’s going to be difficult (to qualify),” Martinez said. “It’s pretty even with all the teams. We have to continue to work, but right now I have to concentrate on the team here. The time to start thinking about the national team will come.”

ADDED TIME

The Sounders return to training in Tukwila today before their flight to Mexico. … The team was off Saturday. Schmid indicated after training on Friday that forward Eddie Johnson (toe/hamstring) could be available for a starting or reserve role Tuesday. However, he indicated that midfielder Brad Evans (calf) is not expected to play. Forwards Obafemi Martins (knee) and David Estrada (eye) had been ruled out earlier.

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 don.ruiz@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/soccer @donruiztnt

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