We love back-flips. There's no shame in that, but there's something about a grown man doing a hand-spring into a full layout that just gets the heart pumping.
Six games into the 2014 season, Obafemi Martins has only treated us to one of his patented goal celebrations. (Why? Well, he's just scored once so maybe lay off him.)
Is the lack of Obagoals* a problem? Only if we're seriously that vapid and obsessed with gorgeous, confidence inspiring celebrations of human accomplishment.
Not only am I not particularly worried about the lack of goal-scoring from Martins, I'm actually really encouraged by how well he's played. Why? Because Martins is proving that he's far more than the garden-variety poacher. He's showing us sides to his game that we didn't really get to see last year. Martins is showcasing a repertoire that is full of nuance and is a ton of fun to watch.
The best piece of news is that whether or not Martins is scoring himself, it should be easy to see that he's contributing to plenty of goals. Martins already has four assists, equalling his total from last year when he played nearly 1,500 minutes. Martins is actually tied for the league lead. Now, I don't expect him to maintain that pace, but it does work as a good illustration to show that he's still very much involved in the buildup.
What's particularly encouraging about those assists is that three of them are to Clint Dempsey, with whom he seems to be creating quite the partnership. It's not just the assists, either. Martins and Dempsey are constantly looking for each other and seem to revel in creating clever combinations. Although Martins didn't get an assist, his touch to Dempsey was what helped unlock the defense on the Sounders' game-winner against FC Dallas.
He also had this little moment of brilliance:
I'm sure if I looked hard enough, I could probably find five examples of plays like this from the Dallas game alone. And it's been happening all year, especially when Dempsey is on the pitch. It's almost as if Dempsey has helped Martins feel confident enough to try this stuff, knowing that there's someone on the other end that is capable of matching him in this department.
Of course, it's not just little moments of brilliance. Martins is generally just playing better despite the fact that he's operating more like a target forward than he did in previous years. We're seeing Martins battling for headers, occupying defenders and generally making himself very useful even if it's not putting balls into the back of the net. An early-season example was on the game-winner against Sporting Kansas City, when Martins essentially took four defenders out of the play that resulted in Chad Barrett pounding home the winner.
It's also worth noting that Martins is doing all this while also doing his part to be goal-dangerous. He was a bit unlucky not to score against the Portland Timbers, was right there to put away that goal Dempsey scored off the underside the crossbar and would have surely scored if Stephen Keel hadn't done it for him.
In other words, I have no doubt we'll be seeing plenty of this soon.