On November 15, 2020, largely unnoticed and behind closed doors in Guatemala City, Guatemala, a lanky young forward stepped foot onto the pitch with a blue and white jersey clinging to his frame, representing his home country for just the fourth time.
In the RSL organization, forward Douglas Martinez is most well-known for his offensive prowess, unrelenting speed, and headline-making goals, but on that day in an empty stadium he took another step towards becoming a full-time member of the Honduran National Team.
“Experience, mentality, the weight of your country and representing the flag is huge, it adds maturity,” Real Salt Lake Head Coach Freddy Juarez shared.
Martinez was born and raised in the small town of Olanchito, Honduras, population of 45,270, known mostly for its agricultural plantations and its role in developing the country in what is now known as the “Banana Republic.”
While still in his home country, Martinez began his professional career with C.D.S. Vida as a bright-eyed teenager at the age of 16. The forward had spent the majority of his youth career with Vida, honing his craft, while earning himself a spot with the first team and the attention of the coaches in the Honduras youth system.
He burst onto the international stage in 2017 with his first major tournament, starting in five of the six matches during the Concacaf U-20 Championships on the team’s way to a second-place finish.
It was during the final of the tournament fate first presented itself when Honduras faced the United States, featuring two young products from an academy in Arizona -- Justen Glad and Aaron Herrera.
Since then Martinez has been a staple with the youth national teams, appearing at the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup, the 2019 Pan American Games and is now part of the roster, looking to earn a spot at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo by finishing in the top two at the 2020 Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
In preparation for the tournament Martinez made the decision to stay in his home country, electing to forgo a few weeks of preseason training with RSL. Instead, he has been participating in several microcamps with the under-23 squad in addition to his time with the full national team.
Throughout this training period the young forward has established himself as a starter for the U-23 team and has even found favor in front of goal. But will all the preparation pay off?
“When you go into Olympic Qualifiers, all eyes are on you and that can change the fortunes and the trajectory of your career,” Juarez said on the benefit of being with the national team. “It helps his mentality and forces him to be at his best and you get a better player in return.”
Martinez and Honduras will have their first opportunity to display all their hard work on Friday, March 19 at 1:30 p.m. MT in the first Group Stage match against Haiti. Then they will play El Salvador on Monday, March 22 at 6:30 p.m. MT and will finish the group round of competition against Canada on Thursday, March 25 at 7:30 p.m. MT.
The two teams who make the championship match will automatically qualify for this summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.