Eddie Johnson and Obafemi Martins are back from international duty and trained together for the first time today. Coach Sigi Schmid said both could be ready to play not only Saturday at Real Salt Lake, but also Tuesday in the CCL opener against Santos.
Mario Martinez did not train today, but Schmid said he is on his way back to Seattle.
Schmid also said Sharlie Joseph and Brad Evans continue to train well and there could be a role for each Saturday and Tuesday.
SCHMID: “Obviously Mario played both (Honduras) games pretty much in their entirety — I think he was only short seven minutes from playing both games fully,” Schmid said. “Eddie had less minutes, and I think Eddie’s availability is good for both games — for both Saturday and for Tuesday. Mario might be in a situation where it’s better to wait until Tuesday for him. Obviously we’re a lot closer to a full squad right now.”
On Martins for Saturday: He got here on Tuesday, was able to do a little bit of stuff Tuesday, a bit Wednesday. I think by Saturday he should be fine. He’s come off playing at Levante, where they were playing a weekend and them playing Europa Cup on the weekend, so he’s been used to that rhythm as well. I think he’ll be OK.
On Martins today: He was good. He’s learning people, and people are learning him. But there were already some good combinations when we played touch-to-touch. Eddie slipped him in, and he was just past somebody, and there were a couple of times when Eddie got slipped in. I think as they get to know each other, and as the team gets to know him and each other they’ll be good.
On getting the three international players back: Obviously there’s quality there. That’s why they play for their various national teams. Certainlyt here’s a speed element that gets added with Eddie and Oba. With Mario there’s shots from distance and service on set pieces as well, that gets added, and his passing ability. All of them are important pieces to the puzzle, but we’ve got to get everything sorted away and then give that group a little bit of time to play together.
On the speed of Johnson and Martins: I think it changes things for the opponent’s defense. I think they’ve got to be a little bit more aware do they want to play a high line, do they want to take that risk, do they drop off a little bit more because they respect the speed, if they drop off that gives you a little more space to play. So we’ve really got to see how the opponent reacts, then that will show us what we can do. If they play a high line, then we can use the speed to our advantage. If they drop off because they don’t want to get exposed speed-wise, then we’ve got more space to play in front of them. I think we’ve got enough quality to do that as well. So we can do whatever they give us. That’s always the key in soccer is you’ve got to be able to beat at team at what they give you. You’re not always going to get the same thing every week.
On his two World Cup qualifiers: Both were bitter-sweet. I prefer the snow than the rain, I’ll tell you that much. It was a difficult condition, but an enjoyable one at the same time. We were able to get a good result at home in front of our fans (in Colorado). In Azteca, it’s never easy playing there with the altitude, and playing a good team like Mexico.”
More on the snow game: The home games, we usually try to put them in places where the home team gets a bit of an advantage, but I don’t think it was an advantage for anyone. We’re not used to playing in snow; neither are they. Did we expect it to be a blizzard? No. … But the game went on and I thought it was two good teams battling and trying to get a good result. And they had their chances, but at the end of the day we were able to get three points, and we were delighted.
On reception in Mexico: I think there’s a new generation, this new Mexican team, they’re very professional. … They give us a lot more respect than back in the day. We actually talked a bit after the game, some of the guys when there was a foul how quick they were to help us up, or vice versa. From a professional standpoint it was good. There were two good teams in CONCACAF going at it. Like I said, we were able to get out with a point, and we were delighted.
On providing goals: It’s good to be back with the team. I’ve been away for about a week and a half, and you want to be there and play with your team at the end of the day. I don’t think we’re going through a tough spell; I think it’s a challenging spell – trying to think of something positive. We’ve got a very special group, and it’s just going to take time for us to gel. But I’m glad to be back. I watched the highlights, and it’s not easy going down and playing San Jose away. It was a great goal by Chris Wondolowski. In three games we’ve given up three goals, so I’m not too worried. I think from a defensive standpoint we’ve been spot-on this season with the young guy Yedlin coming on on the right and Triore and Hurtado and Leo and Burch on the left-hand side. I think we’ve been very solid in the back. But like you said, I think it’s up to us strikers now. We’ve got a healthy four guys who have been rotating these last three games, and I think it’s just going to take time for the goals to start coming. The good thing is we’re getting chances. I always say that: For a forward it’s important that you’re getting chances, because we know how it is if you’re not getting chances. It plays with your confidence. So the good thing is we’re getting chances, and it’s just a matter of time before they go in.
On pairing with Martins: It’s good. We all know he’s played … in all of the big leagues in the world, and he brings a ton of experience. One of my things today was a quickly as we can and in as short a time span is trying to connect: getting an understanding today with him where he likes to move and trying to complement his movement on the field. I felt like in the possession game that we played … I thought we moved off each other really well. We combined with each other really well. I’m excited. I know the team, the organization and the fans are excited that he’s here. I think he was a great addition to the team. I’m looking forward to playing with him, and I’m pretty sure David Estrada and Sammy Ochoa would say the same.
On what Martins is like personaly: He’s funny. He’s humble. I feel like a lot of guys through football that I’ve met from the African countries, they’re very humble, very religious, down-to-earch, and someone who gets along with everyone. No ego at all. Those are the types of guys that we try to bring here to this organization.
On first session alongside Johnson: The first time in training, I enjoyed it. We have a long time to train with them and to play in games. I’m enjoying it so far.”
On role with Newcastle and Sounders: It’s not the same, how they play in Newcastle and here. It’s different. I’m ready to go, and I play my best to help the team.
On readiness to play Saturday: I’m a soccer player. There’s nothing to do. If the manager says go and play I don’t have no choice but to play.
On reaction in Nigeria to his move to MLS: I think it’s great. … The Levante team in Spain, they don’t really like that fact that I left there. But it’s my own decision. I’m here now, so I concentrate here and try to play more with the team and play a couple of games there.
On reaction of family and friends: If I’m happy, they’re happy as well. … Me and my family were talking about coming to America, to try to stay here, but not to play. But eventually we’re here, so they’re happy.
I’ll be back with some quotes from everyone soon.