TUKWILA, Wash. – With most of the European seasons shutting down for the summer, Obafemi Martins’ internal body clock was probably telling him it was time for some time off.
Right on cue, the Seattle Sounders happened to have two weeks between games. That allowed them to give Martins a solid week away from the team, which he used to see his fiancee in Milan, Italy.
After rejoining the team for Tuesday’s training session, Martins was excited enough to start the second half of his season that he even pledged to come in for additional fitness training during the team’s day off on Wednesday.
“I’m so excited to be back,” Martins told reporters. “Let’s go. There’s nothing else to say.”
Since coming to MLS three months ago, Martins has mostly let his play do his talking. The Nigerian international has tallied four goals and an assist in his first 456 minutes while dealing with a nagging knee injury.
Despite the early success, Martins thinks MLS is a tougher league than its reputation suggested it would be.
“When I talk to my friends back home about that, they don’t really understand what is going on here,” Martins said. “They’re looking at the Spanish league, Italy and England, but they have to come and check it out here because the league is growing very, very fast. And they’re excited. They want to come. I told them there’s a lot going on here and we’re enjoying the league.
“The league is difficult, as well, so they have to come and try. For me, I’m going to say the MLS league now is one of the best. The players who are not here have to come and try it and see how the fans are and how everything is going here.”
Such early success is hardly the norm among European imports. But Martins’ rare blend of physical attributes and experience playing in multiple leagues has helped smooth the transition.
“He’s played in so many different leagues in Europe that I think for him the easier part has been adapting to the type of play in our league,” Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid said. “It’s different than if you have played all your life in one country and now all of a sudden you’re being exposed to a different style, a different method of training. He’s been exposed to all those things.
"He’s seen all that before. There are very few things that he can see in games or in training that he hasn’t experienced before. That made his adjustment a little bit easier.”