No goals? No problem: Forward Obafemi Martins happy to play set-up man for Seattle Sounders


TUKWILA, Wash. — Goals have been in relatively short supply for Obafemi Martins so far in 2014. The Seattle Sounders forward has found the back of the net just once in six games, a strike rate about half of what it has been over the course of a prolific career that has included stops in some of the world’s top leagues.

And while strikers are paid to score, no one is complaining about Martins’ contributions in Seattle ahead of Saturday's clash at StubHub Center against Chivas USA (10:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

“I’m very happy with Oba because he’s doing a lot of little things that don’t show up on the scoreboard,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said earlier this week. “[Clint Dempsey’s] free kick was fantastic but we’ve all seen occasions where that wasn’t called a goal, but yet Oba was there and put in the rebound so it would have been a goal either way. That showed a lot of persistence on his part.

“There were a couple through balls where he fought for the ball, he held off his opponent – the layoff to Dempsey before the third goal where he’s in there with the back to goal as a target. He’s doing a lot of that work. His work for the team has been selfless and he’s been a very productive and important part of the team.”

Not only is Martins doing some of the thankless work – like playing the role of target forward against players much bigger than him – but he’s also proven himself a capable playmaker, registering a league-leading four assists.

It also helps that the Sounders offense has been purring along nicely, averaging exactly two goals per game.

“He’s contributed a lot to this team in terms of his touches on the ball and creating chances for others,” Dempsey, who’s been on the receiving end of three of Martins’ assists, said. “It’s going to come for him. We need to figure out ways to get him better looks in game, but he’s still been an important part of our team. Our link-up play is important in how we do as a team. I think that partnership is going well.”

Martins has always been a bit soft-spoken, especially with the media. He clearly appreciates having a vocal advocate like Dempsey.

"I think that since Dempsey came back [the locker room] is happy. It's back in order," Martins said on Thursday. "He's trying to help his teammates as well. He's the one talking for me. I don't need to talk.

“He's helping me out by saying good things like how they need to pass the ball to Oba and all that, so I'm enjoying it. It's much easier because he's helping the team and I'm trying to do the same. We're family, you know. I hope that we'll take that to the game. We're enjoying it."