Obafemi Martins was in the middle of just about everything.
His two goals were a major reason why the Seattle Sounders beat the Chicago Fire 3-2 on Saturday, but his red card is destined to be the talking point for at least a few more days.
Almost immediately after Harry Shipp scored to cut the then 10-men Fire’s deficit to 2-1, Martins was shown a straight red card before the Sounders were able to get the ball back into play. Television replays did not seem to indicate a red-cardable offense, presumably because whatever happened was before the cameras turned to the scrum at the center circle.
Referee Chris Penso answered a question submitted by the pool reporter at the stadium. “Violent conduct,” Penso wrote. “Martins was sent off after striking an opponent in the head.”
That opponent was apparently Fire midfielder Benji Joya.
“I had the ball and he reached over [to grab it],” Joya told Chicago-Fire.com. “I didn’t understand why because we’re the ones losing. He reached to grab it but his fist was closed, got my chin and then pulled the ball away.”
Until that incident, Martins was having another solid match in what has been an MVP-caliber season.
The longtime Nigerian international made up for missing a wide-open goal in the 5th minute by burying a shot in the 31st minute that left goalkeeper Sean Johnson helpless. Martins was able to collect a Brad Evans cross that had been deflected by a defender, turn and bury his shot past a diving Johnson.
Just two minutes later, the Sounders seemed to be rolling when Martins was taken down in the penalty area by a two-footed tackle from Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, who was shown his second yellow card for the offense. Martins calmly buried the penalty, taking his goal tally to eight for the season.
But the good feelings were short-lived. Shipp pulled a goal back in the 41st minute, making the score 3-2, and before the ensuing kick off, Martins recieved his marching orders.
“You know, I thought we made the game harder than we needed to make it,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid told reporters. “Obviously we are in a good position with a two-goal lead playing a man up, and then we get a man thrown out."
“I am pretty happy with the group,” Sounders midfielder Marco Pappa said, after making a homecoming of sorts in returning to face his former team. “We were good tonight. We played a strong game. Red cards and many fouls but at the end of the day we have the three points. We are pretty happy about that.”