Long, winding road for 'Chiva' Martinez

When Antonio Martinez stepped into the new Pizza Hut Park on Saturday in Frisco, Texas, it was a time for reflection of the past vs. the present. The Chivas USA winger was once a member the Dallas club, during the less than good times from 2000 through 2003.

"It's so very different. They have a winning team that plays in a great stadium. I am sure for the players it's a joy to be on this team right now," said Martinez. "[The stadium] is incredible. We have one in L.A., a brand new stadium and hopefully there will be more in the league."

"When he first got here we shared a lot of bad times and good times," said FC Dallas midfielder Oscar Pareja. "He was a good guy. We shared a lot of information with him and also showed him a lot about the game."

Martinez left the then-Burn to test his skills in Europe, joining with Salamanca of the Spanish second division for the remainder of the 2003-2004 season. After that, the Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico native left Salamanca and played in the Mexican Primera Division for Necaxa the remainder of the 2004 season.

At the end of 2004, Martinez received a call and took on a life-altering challenge to play for a newly formed club in MLS and provide leadership to younger players -- the same life experience he received from a friend with FC Dallas.

"I have always looked up to Oscar Pareja," said Martinez. "When I first got here he was my mentor."

Since playing for Chivas USA, the aptly-nicknamed "Chiva" and his teammates have spent almost their entire inaugural season in the cellar of the Western Conference. But with the new signings of Francisco Palencia, Juan Pablo Garcia, midfielder Hector "Pirata" Castro and goalkeeper Sergio "Matute" Garcia, things have taken a turn for the better as they have since grabbed two consecutive ties away from home against the MetroStars and FC Dallas.

After starting the season as a reserve, Martinez moved into a starting role on June 4 and has been there ever since, mainly on the left side of the Chivas three-pronged attack. He has scored two goals and added three assists, started 12 of the last 14 matches for Chivas USA.

"He will fit well (with Chivas) because of their style of play," said Pareja. "Chivas play a Latin style of soccer which he is used to.

Pareja and Martinez have remained friends regardless of the distance and time they have spent away from each other while the Mexican was outside of the U.S.

"Yes, we actually talk once in a while when he comes here or I go out to L.A. We talk about families as well, because families are important," said Pareja.

Ron Goode is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subejct to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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