Martinez joins Sounders after breakthrough showing at Olympics

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TUKWILA — Mario Martinez craved a taste of home.

Within hours of his arrival to Seattle this month, the first priority for the newest Sounders FC acquisition was finding a Honduran restaurant — and that appetite was quickly satisfied.

“I don’t know where it was,” the 23-year-old midfielder said through an interpreter, “but it was really good.”

The Sounders hope his inclusion into the team will be just as rewarding, and there’s reason to think it will be.

Martinez, who was acquired on loan from Honduran club Real Espana, is coming off a breakthrough performance in the London Olympics. He helped lead Honduras to the quarterfinals by scoring a goal against powerhouse Brazil.

Dynamic. Confident. Skilled. Martinez’s career seems primed to take off.

“We’re happy we did his deal before he had that run in the Olympics, for sure,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “It certainly has drawn some notice for him.”

While the Sounders were able to secure Martinez before teams worldwide could swoop in, they will have to share the playmaker with the Honduran national team in September during FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

Honduras plays two big games against Cuba next month — on the road on Sept. 7 and at home on Sept. 11 — and Martinez said Wednesday that he will be involved. More qualifiers against Panama and Canada await in October.

The Sounders knew Martinez’s participation with the national team was a possibility when they acquired him, and Schmid called it a reflection of the midfielder’s quality.

Becoming a regular on the international scene would be another step forward in Martinez’s career.

“The Olympics was a big step. Coming here to Seattle is another big step. So, yeah, I think if you look at it all together, my career is absolutely in a good spot,” he said. “I’m very motivated, and I’m going to keep working hard.”

Martinez, who could make his debut Saturday at Chivas USA, saw his first action with the team in Sunday’s 3-2 win against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS Reserve League. Schmid described the performance as “OK,” but noted Martinez had arrived only two days earlier, so the integration process had just begun.

“I think all that will get better,” Schmid said. “It was already better (Wednesday) than it was in the game.”

Martinez said the Sounders have been very welcoming and that, as a non-English speaker, he’s received a lot of help from his Latino teammates. Fredy Montero described Martinez as “quiet” but said that was normal coming to a new team, league and country.

And even as Martinez begins to settle into his new environment, he still thinks of home.

“What’s exciting is that every time a Honduran player comes (to MLS), it opens the door for another player,” Martinez said. “I just am glad to be here, and hopefully I do a good job in Seattle to keep that door open for another player who could come in the future.”

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