It should hardly come as a surprise that Mario Martinez is frustrated. The 23-year-old has burst onto the international scene in the past six months, helping lead Honduras to the Olympic quarterfinals and into the final round of World Cup qualifying. Yet that international success has not translated at the club level, specifically with the Seattle Sounders.
Martinez has played just 40 minutes in three league appearances and just two other times in CONCACAF Champions League.
Martinez took that frustration public following another game of not playing on Sunday. In a Tweet that has since been deleted, Martinez made a statement that suggested he was considering leaving the Sounders to go back to Real Espana or to another MLS team.
In talking to reporters through a translator on Monday, Martinez made some efforts to walk back those statements.
"I want everyone to understand that I want to help the team and I support the team," Martinez said (more of his comments here).
We also asked Sounders coach Sigi Schmid about the situation. He basically said that he intended to talk to Martinez and that they would sort it out between them.
There are a few things going on here. The most basic is that Martinez is understandably frustrated. He came here expecting to play and he really hasn't. That he's also seen himself become a virtual hero in his native Honduras has to make his situation with Seattle a bit embarrassing. I have no doubt he's got people in his ear on a near constant basis asking him why he's playing behind people they've never heard of.
To me, it seems kinda obvious why he's not playing, though. The reality is that he's missed a ton of practice. Between his two international call-ups and the trips to Caledonia and Marathon, there's only been one stretch of at least one uninterupted week that Martinez has been able to train with the Sounders.
I don't think the Sounders are holding that against him, per se, but it does limit his ability to get onto the field. Let's also keep in mind that since signing, Brad Evans has been among the team's best players and Steve Zakuani has basically returned to health. Fredy Montero basically has the withdrawn forward locked down. David Estrada is also working his way back. Put it all together and there's not a ton of playing time for Martinez to get, certainly not without proving he deserves it in training.
The intelligence of taking his frustrations public aside, it's also obvious there's a language barrier. In order to talk to Sigi, there needs to be a translator present. Now, that's a problem as old as soccer, but it's still an understandable issue. I would like to think that Sigi has been making some effort to keep Martinez on board with his decisions, but I really doubt it's a conversation they are having on a regular basis. Let's keep in mind that the Sounders are in the midst of a playoff run and preparing the team as a whole has to take precedence over dealing with one player.
Of course, that doesn't mean the Sigi is without fault here. If Martinez mentioned that he thought the Sounders were holding his international absences against him. I imagine that's not remotely true. But it does speak to how much miscommunication may be going on here.
There's no reason this can't be resolved amicably. Sigi has said he sees Martinez as a significant part of this team as they prepare for the playoffs. It's obvious that Martinez is very talented. Surely, he understands that the only way he can get playing time is to earn it. Hopefully, he does.