SEATTLE — Obafemi Martins wanted to make his Seattle Sounders debut badly enough that he flew halfway around world to make it happen.
Now, after a disappointing 1-1 draw with the Portland Timbers on Saturday, he’ll fly halfway back. Martins is set to join the Nigerian national team as it prepares for a World Cup qualifier against Kenya next weekend.
"It was a little bit hard," Martins said in the postgame locker room. "The president [Adrian Hanauer] really wanted me to stay in Madrid so I could go straight to the national team. But I decided to see the team and play as soon as possible."
Playing 20 minutes as a second-half substitute, Martins flashed some of the potential that prompted the Sounders to make him their newest Designated Player. His best moment came in the 80th minute when he nearly connected with Eddie Johnson on a cross that likely would have sealed the result.
Instead, Johnson appeared to expect Martins to shoot – not an entirely surprising development as the two had never even trained together – and the ball rolled through the goal box.
"It’s difficult for him having just flown in and so forth," Seattle head coach Sigi Schmid said of his new DP. "We wanted to give him the opportunity. His mind, his spirit, his soul is here. He wants us to succeed and be successful.
"He’ll get better and I think the things he can do, his quickness, will show through."
While frustrated with the result, Martins was impressed with what he saw at least in terms of the CenturyLink Field atmosphere.
“I’m going to choose them as one of the best fans,” said Martins, who has played for such clubs as Inter Milan, Newcastle and, most recently, Levante. “I’ve played for a lot of clubs and it’s different here. They’re friendly and really support the team, which is good. I like that.”
Participating in a game against the Sounders’ biggest rivals obviously helped, as well.
“It doesn’t get much better than this,” midfielder Steve Zakuani said about the charged environment. "It was good for him to be here. I think he enjoyed it and now he knows what it’s about. Now, He knows what to expect when he comes back for good.”