UPDATE: In case there was any doubt as to Martins' availability, he just sent out this Tweet that basically eliminates any chance he'll be playing.
Back home to celebrate my late Dad,mum n brother...It hurts to remember how you guys left but God loves you more.— OBA MARTINS (@oba_martins) August 16, 2013
Obafemi Martins almost certainly won't start for the Seattle Sounders when they play the Houston Dynamo on Saturday. Might he be available off the bench? Hard to say, especially after Seattle Times beat man Josh Mayers sent out a series of tweets (I know how that is).
Just saw Obafemi Martins and a few other Sounders at the airport. Looks like Martins will be traveling for Saturday's game at Houston.— Joshua Mayers (@joshuamayers) August 15, 2013
Just heard over the SeaTac intercom (twice): Last call for Sounders' flight to Houston, they're waiting for an "O. Martins" to board. Hmmm.— Joshua Mayers (@joshuamayers) August 15, 2013
Now hearing Oba might not be traveling to Houston. He wasn't in team gear when I saw him with Dempsey and Joseph... pic.twitter.com/N0JzyzEhsp— Joshua Mayers (@joshuamayers) August 15, 2013
So Martins is either flying with the team to Houston or he isn't, but it looks like he isn't. In any case, we can probably assume he's not starting as he has yet to train in full with the team this week. The good news is that even combined with the absence of Eddie Johnson, the Sounders still have some pretty good options at forward, all of which are made to look a lot better because of this Clint Dempsey guy.
The safe money seems to be that Dempsey will simply start up top alongside Lamar Neagle. That's not a bad way to go.
But I was a little surprised to see that Eriq Zavaleta was getting some first-team minutes in training this week and Sigi Schmid had some very complimentary things to say about the rookie.
"The stint down in San Antonio helped him with his confidence and playing time," Schmid said on Thursday before the team left for the airport. "He just continues to grow and get better with it. He just has to continue to watch and learn things.
Schmid then made a somewhat shocking comparison, saying that Zavaleta is capable of scoring the some of the same kinds of goals as United States forward Jozy Altidore.
"He just has to find the ability to roll off the shoulder of the defender and get a quick release," Schmid said. "He continues to work on that and continues to try to improve."
I still think Neagle is probably going to start, but after saying earlier this week that there was no chance of Zavaleta getting the call I have to admit I'm rethinking that. It definitely wouldn't surprise me if Zavaleta is getting some consideration for minutes this week and could very well be in line to start the next time a bunch of players are missing, most likely around the U.S. qualifiers on Sept. 6 and 10.