Obafemi Martins should be eligible to play vs. Timbers, Sounders coach says

Shaun Botterill

Just a little more than 24 hours before facing their biggest rival, the Sounders are set to add their third Designated Player.

Assuming there are no unforeseen delays, Obafemi Martins is expected to be eligible to play against the Portland Timbers on Saturday.

Martins jumped on a plane Friday and is expected to join the team later today. It seems highly unlikely that the Sounders would seriously consider starting him without so much as a full day of training, but an appearance as a substitute would at least be possible.

Jet-lag aside, Martins should be fit and reasonably well rested. His last competitive appearance came last Thursday when he started for Levante in their Europa League match against Rubin Kazan. He was held out of Levante's La Liga match over the weekend before his exit clause was paid on Monday. Rather than head straight to the United States, Martins stayed in Europe a few extra days in order to obtain his work visa and finalize any other paperwork.

If Martins doesn't play on Saturday, that could potentially push his debut back until March 30. That assumes he accepts the call-up to Nigeria's World Cup Qualifier against Kenya on March 23.

One way or another, the Sounders are probably going to have to find a way to get Martins some rest between now and the end of the season. Martins made his debut for Levante on Sept. 23, 2012. Since then, he's played more than 2,000 minutes across all competitions. As a point of comparison, Fredy Montero played about 3,400 minutes across all competitions a year ago.

However they choose to use him, Martins appears to be one of the more significant signings in MLS history. Not only did the Sounders effectively pay a $4 million transfer fee, they are reportedly paying him about $2.5 million. Robbie Keane is the only player a MLS team has paid more for and Martins' salary immediately puts him among the three highest paid players in the league.

What makes the signing especially significant is that Martins is the first player to join MLS while in the midst of a standout season in Europe. Martins was Levante's leading scorer with seven league goals and had scored two more in Europa League play.

Martins' best success came in the six seasons of 2004-2009 when he scored a combined 72 goals across all competitions, while playing Inter Milan, Newcastle and VfL Wolfsburg. He also has eight goals in 24 Nigerian national team appearances.

While others have had better overall resumes, they were not enjoying seasons quite like Martins. Keane was in the midst of a season in which he had scored just two goals in about 700 Premier League minutes when he joined the Galaxy. Thierry Henry joined the Red Bulls on a free transfer following a year in which he had scored four goals in about 1,200 minutes at Barcelona.

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