4. Entering the Frame, At Forward: Obafemi Martins
But just last week, news emerged that the Sounders were actively targeting 28-year-old Nigerian international Obafemi Martins, formerly of Inter Milan and currently playing for La Liga club Levante. The emerging news went a long way towards explaining the absence from preseason camp of Tiffert--who seems the logical choice to have his contract bought out in order to make way for Martins--as well as the decision to bring Joseph into the fold.
Over the course of the next few days, things moved very quickly from rumor to confirmed interest, and though Levante seems willing to do everything within its power to prevent the striker from leaving, he has voiced his displeasure at having allegedly not been paid as agreed on multiple occasions. The Sounders willingness to pay a fee that would trigger his automatic release clause makes his arrival in Seattle before the close of the transfer window on April 15th look very likely.
Though there are legitimate risks involved in the signing--the major ones excellently summarized here--the club’s interest in Martins is easy to understand. It’s rare (if not unprecedented) to see players of his age and caliber make the move from Europe to MLS, and his skill set seems a perfect fit for the league. The combination of Eddie Johnson’s physical presence, positioning and hold-up-skill alongside Martins’ speed, creativity and technical skill has the potential to be lethal. Martins is similar to Montero in size but he’s a very different player, and though Montero’s ability is largely unquestionable a strong case could be made that Martins is a better fit for MLS.
Assuming the move for Martins doesn’t fall through, the Sounders are in very good shape at forward. The first-choice pairing is one of the league’s best, while David Estrada and Sammy Ochoa provide solid cover in league play and offer a strong pairing in secondary competitions. Should Martins not end up with Seattle, Estrada would appear to be the most obvious partner for Johnson, with a switch to a lone striker look as possibility is well. Sigi Schmid has the kind of flexibility thanks to an abundance of talent in the Sounders second attacking band.