We'll Miss The Flips: Sounders Must Bounce Back Quickly From Martins Transfer | KNKX

We'll Miss The Flips: Sounders Must Bounce Back Quickly From Martins Transfer

Feb 19, 2016

The Seattle Sounders and their fans are likely still reeling from the surprise departure of leading scorer Obafemi Martins to the Chinese Super League.

KPLU sports commentator Art Thiel says that, amid the shock, there is a bit of a silver lining.

'A Blow To The Sounders'

"I think a lot of fans of the Sounders - and the Sounders themselves - their jaws were on the floor about this," Thiel said.

"From the big picture, it's not necessarily startling that there was an international transfer but this close to the season, it was a blow to the Sounders."

Like Losing Beast Mode

"This is almost like losing Marshawn Lynch for the Seahawks because Martins' athletic ability was so transcendent, he was better than the next best player in the league by a significant amount.

"I don't want to get carried away with the analogy because they're two different sports but it's a blow - it really is," Thiel said.

China: Growing Soccer Market

"I understand it from Martins' standpoint. He's going to get more money playing in China because China is trying to grow the sport.

"They're not an international power yet. But, as China does with many things, it throws money to try to catch up and a lot of international players are going to China now because the money is so good."

Tough Turf In Seattle

Thiel said another likely reason Martins wants to play in China is getting the chance to play on grass.

"Martins played in Seattle on an artificial surface, which is hard on the legs," he said. "I think that's part of it. He doesn't want to say so because he doesn't want to damage the Sounders' reputation with other players, but it's a part of it.

"He also said in his farewell tweet, that he likes the big adventure of carrying soccer into a new frontier, which he did with the Sounders.

"But he's a vagabond. This is his ninth team since he turned pro at age 15 in his native Nigeria, so it isn't altogether that shocking," Thiel said.

Silver Lining

Thiel pointed out that the Sounders will get about a $2 million transfer fee. And Martins' departure opens up a designated player slot on the team's roster.

"Each Major League Soccer club gets three designated players in which they can go above and beyond the very tough salary cap that MLS has.

"They can pay international players, such as Martins, Clint Dempsey and other internationals who are highly talented, bigger money than MLS allows and close to what they were receiving globally.

"That's what draws star power to MLS."

New Homegrown Star

The Sounders have their own homegrown star power who will likely feature prominently in the starting lineup this season: Jordan Morris of Mercer Island.

"Morris is really a talented American," Thiel said.

"And I think there was a little backstage drama here," he continued. "The coach of the U.S. Men's National Team, Jurgen Klinsmann, likes to see players of Morris' caliber play in Europe first - not MLS.

"The Sounders managed to keep Morris here because he grew up on Mercer Island. He was a star in high school and was the best player in college at Stanford for three years. He skipped his senior year to come to the Sounders because he was really attracted to what he saw with the Sounders as an MLS team.

"That upset Klinsmann but it certainly pleased the Sounders to have a 21 year old step into what will be Martins' position at striker and, perhaps, be a very dominant figure.

"There's going to be a learning curve but I think the Sounders are very excited about the vacancy in the starting lineup to push Morris forward but there are going to be growing pains because he's 10 years younger.

"It's going to be a bit of an adventure for the Sounders but they're not without resources to still have a contending team."

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You can find Art Thiel's work at Sportspress Northwest and Crosscut.com.