Although there are a quite a few new faces in preseason camp with Real Salt Lake, there's perhaps no bigger buzz among the newcomers than North Carolina product and first-round SuperDraft pick Enzo Martinez.
Martinez met up with the team in Scottsdale, Ariz., after a brief delay as the Uruguayan finalized some immigration paperwork. And so far, so good.
“It was unreal,” Martinez told MLSsoccer.com via phone after the team held an intrasquad scrimmage last week. “I had a lot of high expectations when I came here with the team, and they’ve exceeded all my expectations.”
It didn’t take long for Martinez to make his mark, either. In the opening minutes of the intrasquad scrimmage, Martinez’s pressure on the ball helped cause a turnover which quickly led to the opening goal by forward Fabián Espíndola.
“I try to do what the coaches have been telling us to do the whole time – which is pressure, pressure, pressure – and I pressed the ball down the line and I got a nick,” Martinez said. “So then we counter-attacked really quickly and then within two passes the ball was in the back of the net. I didn’t look at it as I did all this, but I’m just happy that the coach wanted me to do something and it worked for us as a team.”
Along those lines, the 5-foot-7 playmaker knows that it’s on the practice field that he needs to dedicate himself to adapting to MLS and honing his craft.
“Training sessions have been unbelievable,” Martinez said. “The coaches are involved teaching you and right now I’m just trying to learn the system and how the team plays. But it was just so much fun being out there. It’s truly a blessing.”
Coach Jason Kreis feels that Martinez is progressing along much as would be expected.
“I think he’s learning his way a little bit,” Kreis told MLSsoccer.com from camp in Casa Grande, Ariz. “Obviously, the speed of play is higher than what he’s been used to, so he’s trying to adapt and think quicker, play quicker and also understand what’s expected of him on the defensive side of the ball, which maybe he’s never been really held accountable for that before. I think there’s a lot of learning, but he’s getting there.”
And the fact that he missed the first week doesn’t appear to have been much of a setback.
For his part, Martinez is just focused on proving that he can pick up on the Real Salt Lake way of doing things and adapt his game to Kreis’ style of play.
“That’s what I’ve been trying to do – to show the coaches that I fit in,” he said. “I feel very confident in my ability and very confident that I can learn.”