SANTA CLARA, Calif. – What Walter Martinez’s first MLS goal lacked in style, it made up for in substance.
Denied what would have been a gorgeous bicycle-kick goal in the first half, Martinez still made the difference for the San Jose Earthquakes’ 1-0 victory against the Seattle Sounders on Saturday, cutting back for a more conventional – but still game-winning – goal in the 48th minute.
“It was great to get the first [MLS] goal,” Martinez said through a team translator. “But the important thing was to get the win tonight.”
Even as the Quakes and Sounders battled ferociously in either box, it was Martinez’s work on the flanks that finally secured three points San Jose “desperately needed,” as interim coach Mark Watson acknowledged.
The former Honduran international had gone through nearly 750 minutes of MLS play without scoring, but he didn’t feel the game owed him – even after Michael Gspurning dove to stop his overhead try in the 14th minute.
“No player ever thinks, ‘I’m waiting for a goal,’ or ‘I’m hoping for a goal,’” Martinez said. “It comes in the moment that it comes, and you have to take advantage of the opportunity.”
Said Watson: “It was a great move . . . It was probably a little bit unlucky that he hit it so well, it went straight to the keeper. Usually, you mishit those a little bit and they find one of the sides.”
Finding the side is what he did on the goal, taking advantage when a ball off the foot of Steven Lenhart found him on the left side of the Sounders’ area. The 31-year-old needed only one touch to cut inside Seattle right back DeAndre Yedlin and curl a shot around backup goalkeeper Andrew Weber.
“He’s primarily a right-sided player playing on the left, so that’s what he naturally does,” Watson said. “He wants to get the ball and cut inside. He works on it a lot, on that almost exact play, a little touch inside and then finishes to the far post. So it was great to see it hit the back of the net.”
Martinez also showed veteran savvy when asked if Lenhart’s ball was a pass or – as it appeared to the naked eye – a scuffed shot attempt that curled to the far side.
“A pass,” Martinez said, even though his full-fledged smile may have revealed the truth.