Seattle's new designated player subbed on in the 70th minute less than 24 hours after arriving in the city.
Less than 24 hours after arriving to Seattle, new Sounders FC designated player Obafemi Martins was in the game for Saturday’s rivalry game against the Portland Timbers.
The 28-year-old forward came off the bench in the 70th minute of the 1-1 tie to a rousing ovation in front of 40,150 at CenturyLink Field.
Martins, an instant crowd favorite, replaced midfielder Mario Martinez and played up front alongside Eddie Johnson in a game that saw the Timbers tie the score in the 90th minute.
“It was the loudest it’s ever been at the Clink when he came out,” said Johnson. “The fans know the importance he has on this team and I thought he had a good debut. … He showed in the 20 minutes what he can do and bring to the team. We’re excited he is here.”
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An admittedly tired Martins called the Seattle crowd some of the best fans he’s played in front of.
“I’ve been playing for a lot of clubs, and it’s different here,” he said.
The new DP nearly helped the Sounders double their lead in the 80th minute, when he collected a pass from midfielder Steve Zakuani on the left side and just missed on a cross to Johnson in front of the goal.
Martins’ stay in Seattle in the short term won’t last long, however. He is scheduled to report to the Nigerian national team Sunday for a World Cup qualifier on March 23 against Kenya.
“Of course we appreciate his commitment,” Zakuani said. “Now he has to fly back all the way halfway across the world again. I think it was good for him to be here. … Now he knows what to expect when he comes back for good.”
Sounders to lose more to national teams
Midfielder Mario Martinez (Honduras) and Johnson (U.S.) will also be leaving shortly for World Cup qualifiers with their respective national teams, according to coach Sigi Schmid. Schmid added that midfielder Brad Evans is on a standby list for the U.S.
“It’s frustrating,” Schmid said. “It just delays it another week because we can’t train together.”
• MLS commissioner Don Garber told reporters in New York that the league is hoping to give schedule relief to the Sounders and Los Angeles Galaxy to help with preparations for the CONCACAF Champions League semifinals in April.
Seattle is scheduled to play five games in 15 days, including CCL games on April 2 and 9.
• Osvaldo Alonso made his 110th MLS start Saturday, breaking the franchise record (he was tied at 109 with Fredy Montero, who is on loan with Colombia’s Millonarios this season).
Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or firstname.lastname@example.org.