In case there were anymore of you out there concerned that Mario Martinez was nothing more than myth, the Honduran hero was actually training with the Seattle Sounders on Friday and will likely make his debut this weekend. Sounders coach Sigi Schmid Martinez could play as early as Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps, but would definitely play in Sunday's Reserve League match.
What this means for the Sounders' immediate future is still the stuff of speculation. While everyone seems to expect Martinez to eventually be a starter on this team, it's at least worth pointing out that the most obvious spot for him to play is not the position where he's excelled. It's also worth pointing out that Alex Caskey has played reasonably well at left mid and that it's hard to imagine Brad Evans just completely falling out of the rotation, either.
Of course, Martinez was brought here for a reason and, as he said himself, that reason is because the Sounders saw something about him that they liked.
In the few minutes we were able to see Martinez play during Friday's session, it's obvious that he has some skills. His free kicks were remarkably accurate and he's the kind of player that gets people's imaginations working overtime.
But it's probably asking a bit much for him to basically walk off the plane on Thursday evening and expect him to play a significant role in a game as big as Saturday's against the Vancouver Whitecaps. He could well play, but it would probably only be under near perfect circumstances, such as the Sounders leading big late.
Christian Tiffert, who is considerably more experienced and at least had a couple practices under his belt, only played about 24 minutes in his debut which all came after the Sounders had built a sizable lead. Martinez has also been traveling quite a bit more, having gone from England to Honduras to Miami to Seattle in the past couple weeks.
Once he gets acclimated, his role will become far more interesting. Although Martinez is left footed and has played in the midfield, the bulk of his playing time seems to have been either as a withdrawn forward or as a right midfielder. As long as Fredy Montero and Mauro Rosales are healthy, it seems unlikely that Martinez will be starting at either of those positions.
The assumption seems to be that Martinez will simply slide into that spot on the left, something that may be easier said than done. I'm certainly willing to grant that Martinez has a higher ceiling than Caskey, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's the better option if you need to win now. How much he plays there will depend heavily on how quickly he's able to pick up the position and whether or not he's willing to at least exert effort on the defensive side.
I trust that Martinez has a bright future, but I also said the same thing about Christian Sivebaek. Hopefully, Martinez will prove to be more adaptable.