Walter Martinez is one of three strong Hondurans on the Earthquakes, but the club is more about team unity than cliques, international or otherwise.
The dynamic trio of Marvin Chavez, 29, Victor Bernardez, 31, and Martinez , 31, is often lumped together like some Honduran hat trick, but each veteran player has his own identity, skill-set and compelling story.
“Overall, this is a team. It’s not just about the Honduran players or the other players; it’s a big group of players that has to work together,” Martinez said, using an interpreter.
Of course, Martinez made all his teammates happy in a vital 1-0 win over the rival Seattle Sounders FC on July 13 at Buck Shaw Stadium. The crafty 145-pound forward scored his first MLS goal since signing with the Quakes in March -- on a majestic finish in the 48th minute.
A 15-year-pro, Martinez was born in Tegucigalpa , Honduras ’ largest and most populous city. Chavez and Bernardez were born in La Ceiba, known as a friendly city surrounded by jungles, rivers, mountains and beaches.
Interim coach Mark Watson shares Martinez ’s team-first belief, which trumps the Honduran angle.
“It’s nice for those guys to have a bit of familiarity and someone that speaks the language and has similar customs, but they’re all a big part of our group here,” Watson said. “We don’t have little cliques here, where guys kind of do their own thing. Even though there’s a language issue for some of them, they still mesh really well and they’re a big part of this unit, all three of them.”
Clearly, Martinez picked a great night to give his team a lift against Seattle . On his goal, Steven Lenhart sent a ball to the left, and Martinez made a magical move. He cut inside defender DeAndre Yedlin and curled a 12-yard shot around goalkeeper Andrew Weber into the far upper corner. In the 14th minute, Martinez reached into his bag of tricks and hit a full bicycle kick that was saved by Seattle starter Michael Gspurning.
The outcome, which snapped a two-game losing streak, was just what the doctor ordered for a club eager to make a late push toward a playoff spot in the tough Western Conference.
“We’re feeling good. We’re feeling confident,” Martinez said. “The game against Seattle lifted a lot of weight off our shoulders and made us feel better.”
Watson likes what he’s been seeing from Martinez , a right-sided player who adapted like a true pro to playing on the left.
“Walter’s done really well,” Watson said. “When we first had him in, it took him a while to get kind of match fit and match sharp, and once he got to that level he’s been good. He’s not a young player that’s learning the game, so he knows what he’s doing out there. He’s had some really good performances, and Saturday night was probably his best.”
Before signing with the Quakes, Martinez played the three previous seasons in China . He’d tried out with D.C. United but didn’t stick. So the Quakes, who liked his versatility and ability to play second forward, pounced on the opportunity to land him.
Martinez , who holds a permanent U.S. residency, meaning he doesn’t take up an international roster spot, has 12 goals and more than 40 appearances for Honduras since 2002. He played in each of his country's three games at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa .
Moreover, Martinez thinks that the Quakes, who recently added Salvadoran international Jamie Alas on loan from Rosenberg BK, along with U.S. national team center back Clarence Goodson and English veteran pro Jordan Stewart, are headed in the right direction.
“The front office has done a good job bringing in quality players,” Martinez said. “It’s going to be very important for us to have a better end of the season than even last year. Hopefully, we can push forward even deeper in the playoffs.”
Interestingly, Martinez was the lone footballer in his “big family” back home, he says. He stays in contact with friends and family through social networking.
“It was difficult to leave them behind, but I’m doing something I love,” he said.
-- Richter Media