The long journey of Juan Manuel Martinez continued on Tuesday as the Real Salt Lake forward took part in his first full training session with his new club, showing quickly that he could blend in with his teammates while elevating the level of play. Now with two training sessions in the books, Martinez is already showing his quality and ability to fit in with Real Salt Lake as the club looks to integrate its Argentine Designated Player with just eight matches left to play on the MLS schedule.
“It’s encouraging. He really wanted to gel as quickly as possible with us and I think we want to get him feeling as comfortable as possible,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said. “I think it’s working on both sides. Hopefully we can get him out there as quickly as possible to help us win some games.”
Martinez flew to Salt Lake City from Argentina last week, landing Friday morning. He was on the bench for RSL on Saturday night in a 2-0 win over Seattle Sounders FC, but didn’t appear in the match. After a brief session on Sunday, he was unveiled to the media on Monday then took to the field on Tuesday.
Now with RSL preparing to face FC Dallas on Saturday, Head Coach Jeff Cassar is working Martinez into an offense that used persistence and possession to take an early lead and hold on against Seattle.
Just how and when he would be fully integrated is yet to be seen, but Cassar is filled with optimism based on what he has seen from his first practice sessions.
“He’s fitting in great with the group. Obviously he’s an extremely intelligent player. Now it’s just getting him up to speed, getting him comfortable with the guys,” Cassar said. “He’s going to be going to Dallas. Whether he starts or comes off the bench, we’ll see how this week goes. He’s a nice addition to our team.”
Although he has played almost exclusively in Spanish-speaking countries, Martinez speaks fluent English. That has helped integrate him with his teammates and the RSL coaching staff quickly. That coupled with an engaging personality have endeared him with the whole team already.
“It definitely helps him both on the field and off the field. The communication between the staff and him is great. Obviously the players are great,” Cassar said when asked how being bilingual helps Martinez. “He’s got a great personality and I think he’s going to fit really well with our group.”