When healthy, there’s little reason to doubt Obafemi Martins’ ability to be among the top scorers in MLS.
During his first few months with the Seattle Sounders, that’s exactly what he was. In his first 10 appearances, he scored six goals and was making it look remarkably easy.
But he was stretched further than any point in his career. Martins played nearly the entire 2012-13 season with Spain's Levante before transferring to Seattle last March, marking nearly 11 months of non-stop soccer. And he started to break down.
The Nigerian international followed up his blazing start with an almost five-month stretch in which he scored just two goals and ended the season missing 10 of the Sounders’ final 16 matches.
Now, with an opportunity to experience a real preseason for the first time in several years (he spent the offseason prior to joining Levante recovering from a knee injury), Martins seems ready to go.
“I’m having fun,” he told reporters following Friday’s training session in which he put on a virtual finishing clinic. “It’s good to start the preseason with my teammates.
“Preseason is very important. You’re training with the team and learning a lot about your teammates, getting to know them better. We’re getting to know each other, not just playing but as a family.”
One player he’s already been impressed by is Kenny Cooper, who the Sounders acquired in an offseason trade with FC Dallas. Cooper and Martins have been paired together almost exclusively during training exercises and preseason games.
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“I think he’s strong,” Martins said of the former FC Dallas man. “He has big potential. He reminds me of Christian Vieri with how he plays. He was a big guy, too. We hope we play well together.”
Comparing Cooper to the Italian great Vieri, who scored nearly 250 goals for club and country during a prolific career with some of Europe’s biggest clubs, is certainly high praise. But it also seems to be part of a mutual admiration society that Martins and Cooper are forming.
“He’s an incredible player, overflowing with talent,” Cooper said early in training camp. “He has so many amazing qualities. I think any forward would love the opportunity to line up alongside him.”