The Philadelphia Union signed Saprissa striker Josue Martinez

Union's new signing Martinez has something to prove

New Philadelphia Union forward Josué Martínez is a player who still has a lot to prove.

That’s how Kenneth Hernández, soccer writer for Costa Rican daily Al Día, describes the 21-year-old rising star.

“Martínez is a player for the future,” Hernández told on Wednesday. “He’s still young and he has a lot to give. But he’s just 21 and he needs to establish himself as a forward who responds with goals."

The striker has carried lofty expectations ever since he burst onto the scene at the 2009 Under-20 FIFA World Cup, where Costa Rica shocked the world to finish fourth. After that tournament, where Martínez emerged from obscurity with two goals, he became an established starting striker for Costa Rican giants Deportivo Saprissa.

In the most recent league season, which concluded for Saprissa with playoff elimination at the hands of rivals Alajuelense, Martínez played in 18 of the club’s 22 matches, scoring six times. His production has been a discussion topic for Saprissa observers.

“He’s a fast player,” Hernández said. “His main problem area is that he makes mistakes in converting. He misses chances and the [Saprissa] fans have not been so kind with him. It has cost him to establish himself as a consistent player.”

Whatever his difficulties with finishing, he still has blinding speed. It's that ability to unsettle opposing back lines that has made the Costa Rican youth national teamer a subject of a rumored move to MLS for some time, with Real Salt Lake and Chivas USA talked about as possible destinations over the last two years.

RSL got a taste of it during both matches of the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League semifinals against Saprissa. Although Martínez did not get on the board in the series and came out with 20 minutes remaining in both matches, he earned the praise of RSL manager Jason Kreis in the lead-up to both ties.

"Sometimes he fades and gets lost a little," Hernández said. "It has cost him as far as meeting the expectations of the fans and the press.”

There are also expectations to meet to get on the Costa Rican national team. Martínez has not been a regular call-up of late despite being selected for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup and Copa América. He was not summoned for the friendly match against Cuba on Dec. 11.

Hernández calls him “a good kid and a respectful person, [but] a little timid. He’s not aggressive."

"I think he can grow even more in MLS,” Hernández added, suggesting Martínez has the potential to one day draw interest from some of the game's biggest clubs. “He needs to take advantage of this opportunity.”