Some attacking flair: World Cup vet Walter Martinez gives San Jose Earthquakes midfield a new look
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Fans of the San Jose Earthquakes finally were able to see what Walter Martinez can do when the Honduran World Cup veteran made his MLS debut last Saturday against the Montreal Impact.
They might get a chance to take a longer look on Wednesday when the Quakes host Toronto FC (10:30 pm ET, MLS Live).
San Jose head coach Frank Yallop said Tuesday that “there’ll probably be a couple of changes” to his team's lineup as they contest their first midweek match of the season. There are injuries on the backline and suspensions up top limiting depth, which means the most likely area for making moves is in the Quakes midfield.
And that means Martinez, who joined the team in mid-March but was slow to round into match fitness, could get a shot at quarterbacking San Jose’s attack, which has produced back-to-back two-goal performances after just one multi-goal game in the first eight matches.
Martinez came on for Rafael Baca in the 62nd minute against the Impact and was at the center of a 3-5-2 formation as the Quakes desperately chased an equalizing goal. They found it in the 91st minute when Justin Morrow – stationed up along the left wing, instead of in his usual defensive post – knocked a ball back to Martinez, who played a long pass from near the center circle to Chris Wondolowski, tucked just inside Montreal’s penalty area.
Wondolowski knocked the ball down for Sam Cronin, who struck from 20 yards to beat Impact goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
“I think he did well,” Yallop said of the Honduran international on Tuesday before training. “He hadn’t played for a bit, hadn’t really mixed in with the guys by being not as fit as he should have been. Now he’s game-fit and sharp. … He adds a different dimension to us, more of an attacking player from that spot, and we needed that a little bit in that game.”
This might be the perfect time to buy a little rest for Baca, who is one of only four Quakes to start every game this season, and especially so if Yallop also holds either of his speedy wingers, Marvin Chávez or Shea Salinas, out of the starting lineup.
The highlights of Baca’s skill set – the tenacity in winning second balls, the clean, quick passing to the flanks – best mesh when Chávez and Salinas man the outside spots. Getting Martinez in could mean more offensive thrust up the middle.
Regardless of who plays, the Quakes know they should be able to come out with more verve than TFC, who are playing for the fourth time in 12 days and are on a seven-match winless streak. This represents San Jose’s best chance of halting their own victory-free stretch at six matches.