Obafemi Martins has been a different man in 2014. The Nigerian international has elevated his game to a level that no one knew existed.
Sigi Schmid’s decision to pursue the journeyman is paying off at the right time. The former Inter Milan striker who has a history of not been fully committed has laid it all out on the line this year.
In his first season in MLS, Martins was impressive, but he never blew anyone’s mind. This year, he’s done more than blow people’s mind, he’s aroused the spectator’s imagination. If you don’t believe me, I’ll encourage you to watch a Seattle Sounders game and you’ll witness first-hand the extent of Oba’s brilliance.
Unlike last season, the forward is always extemporaneously involved in every aspect of Schimd’s game plan. He is the linchpin of an extraordinary team.
In 2013, Martins looked enervated and apathetic on multiple occasions. Watching him drag his feet around the field and being uncertain with his runs was horrifying. He and the always outspoken Eddie Johnson just never clicked.
Johnson wanted to be the guy and ineffectively tried to emulate Cristiano Ronaldo’s step over’s, while Martins unsuccessfully attempted to figure out what his strike partner was doing.
Despite the dull performances with Johnson, Martins had his moment when he was partnered up with Lamar Neagle.
Watching the two speedy forwards terrorize defenders was remarkably entertaining. They were almost unstoppable. Their movement, fluidity on the ball, intricate passing and killer finishing, thoroughly pleased Seattle’s electrifying fans.
With Neagle beside him, Martins was an absolute beast. He was more involved, willing to run, connected with his teammates and unselfish.
This season, the Martins that played alongside Neagle last year has showed up to every single game the Sounders have played so far. The Nigerian has been a man among boys. He’s been extremely effective in 80 percent of the games he’s played, and has eight goals and six assists.
The game against the Chicago Fire is a perfect example of the new Martins. Even though he got a red card late in the first half, the 29-year-old delivered a man of the match worthy performance.
Seattle’s No.9 was a willing participant from the get-go. He moved all over the pitch, helped apply pressure, made excellent runs and got himself two goals.
Defensively, the center forward did more than what was asked of him. There was a particular moment in the game when Martins lost the ball inside Chicago’s half. Instead of standing around and waiting for the guys behind him to win the ball, the Nigerian took initiative and chased down the ball. He didn’t win the ball, but his pressure broke up the Fire’s charge forward.
This season, it’s clear that Martins is enjoying his soccer. He is more motivated, determined to be the best and most importantly, he is happy in Seattle.
A few days ago, the forward confirmed his love for the Emerald City Supporters on his twitter account. He wrote, “I hope to stay in Seattle Sounders for long term… heart the fans.”
If the MVP award was handed out today, no one deserves it more than the player that has been referred to by his teammates as a “world-class player.”
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