Union

Who is Nicolás Martínez?

Image Credit: AAManagers via YouTube

At this point, anyone travelling in Union social media circles will have encountered this tweet from the Argentine rumor mill AXEM-

It states that after finishing his loan with the A-League’s Western Sydney Wanderers, Olympiakos is sending Argentine midfielder Nicolás Martínez to join the Union. The Greek source asserts in no uncertain terms that this is happening and that it is another loan. While there is plenty of reason to view these claims with a certain amount of skepticism, it also seems like something worth considering if it does turn out to be true.

Right off the bat, he fills the on-field position of most desperate need for the Union. Most sources credit him as a central attacking midfielder, and in this video from when he joined the Wanderers he says (in fairly good English) that his prefered position is as a No. 10, though he’s comfortable playing out wide as well. It appears he spent most of his time in Australia on the left wing, a fate all too familiar to left-footed players everywhere. And based on the footage findable on the internet, even when playing on the left he seems to drift towards the center often enough to remind you of where he thinks his best position is.

The other thing revealed by watching highlight reels is his unselfish play. Almost every clip focuses on a well-weighted through ball, setting up a teammate for an excellent chance on goal. Concerningly more than a few of those excellent chances fail to get converted into goals, but it seems most of the fault for that lies with the shooter rather than Martínez. And that vision, that ability to see a potential play that changes the flow of the game, is something that the Union attack is sorely missing. There’s elements of it in the play of Haris Medunjanin, but his position further downfield leaves the midfield lacking any kind of range or ability to spread the game once they get closer to goal. It also appears that Martínez isn’t afraid to shoot, with several clips showing him testing keepers, or at least making them thankful for the placement of the goalpost. His goalscoring numbers are nothing too exciting overall, but that willingness to shoot would keep defenses honest and help create space for other players.

What isn’t seen in any clip from the last few years is any kind of transcendent talent. That isn’t to say he isn’t a good player. He’d almost certainly be among the more talented players on the team should he join the Union. And that doesn’t mean he couldn’t change the Union’s trajectory going into the back half of the season. There is talent in this team’s offense, but the first half of the season showed it lacks the structure needed to really punish opposing teams. Someone like Martínez could be the key to surpassing that limitation. The team would be better with him on it, but there would still be a long way to go before they become a force to be reckoned with in MLS.

It’s also worth discussing the odyssey that his career has been on since he left Argentina. He’s played in Chile, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, and lastly of course Australia. Those last two were loans from Olympiakos, but every move before that was a sale. It’s possible to interpret this as him failing to make the cut, or even that personality issues have kept him from finding a more permanent home. But this seems unlikely. Olympiakos is the highest-ranked team in Greece, with UEFA listing them above AS Monaco and Liverpool. They’re not in the business of holding on to bad players, so they wouldn’t have kept him around if they didn’t see value in him.

Also of note, Martínez’ brother, Juan Manuel Martínez, played for Real Salt Lake from 2015 to 2016, meaning Nico should be at least somewhat familiar with the league and therefore better prepared to face the unique challenges endemic to MLS. But even if he doesn’t work out, it’s only a loan and the Union could be off the hook for him once the season is over, allowing the team to find a full-time replacement without having to fit another dead contract under the salary cap. If it does work out, league policy states that all loan deals must include a team option to buy at the end of the loan, meaning he won’t have to leave if the Union don’t want him to.

All told, this seems like the kind of move the Union need to make. The team and fans need something to carry them through to the fall. He may not be the flashy signing some have been clamoring for, but he’d fit the way Head Coach Jim Curtin continues to insist the team should play. He may not be everything the fans have wanted, but if it’s what they have to settle for, he deserves a chance to show what he can do.

19 Comments

  1. Even if he is not the long term answer, having a competent 10 will help see if the other pieces are the answer. Would be nice to sign that DP 10. But this is a step in the right direction. Especially if it is ashort loan.

  2. pragmatist says:

    I’ll be honest…I had never heard of a single international player that the Union had signed before they became associated with the Union. While they haven’t nailed them all, it worked out well with Nogs, Haris, and Barnetta. Maybe this will be another addition to that list.
    .
    If not, there will be a purge after the season, anyway. He can be part of that group that is ushered out.
    .
    But it would be nice if he was the answer. I’m just not betting the house, given the franchise’s history.

    • Same except for Barnetta. I had big expectations b/c of stay at Leverkusen. Was so satisfied with that transfer (even his debut PK, lol).

    • Me either, but their resumes looked better than Martinez’s:
      -Barnetta- Switzerland National Team
      -Nogueira- captain of Sochaux in Ligue 1
      -Medunjanin- Bosnian National Team

  3. I’ll admit this is underwhelming, but it’s something. He is a real #10, and is super low risk. If he fails, he is gone.

    And long with Alerb, Illson, Edu, etc being gone, we will have a lot of room to make new signings this off season.

    • Plus I read the league is considering injecting an additional $2MM in TAM money for next year. That’s going to go a long way too.

  4. el Pachyderm says:

    I like the sounds of this and it falls in line with So Union….so let’s see what happens.
    .
    Of note CJs off ball movement is maddening to me so it would be interesting to see how the striker plays with someone in the hole ….. as IMO Barnetta was often quite frustrate with CJ as evidenced by his inability to score when The Calm was dealing.
    .
    More interesting to me is would a player like Nicolas help Jay Simpson display the gol scoring ability he may have and more to the point would we even see Jay (pun intended) on the field enough to discover his qualities.

  5. Getting this guy for at least 18 months (the current season is a loss), and a coach who can coach attacking soccer, would be encouraging.

  6. We’ll, he can’t make this team any worse.

  7. Union have a full roster so any signing would mean someone else is sold/loaned/traded.

    • Jim O'Leary says:

      Easy enough to loan someone like Trusty or Aaron Jones to Bethlehem and open up the space if they need to.

      • While there has never been any official acknowledgement, all indications are that Aaron Jones is on unrecallable season-long loan to the Steel already.
        .
        My theory, based on a mid-February Tannenwald article, is that his loan allows them to have the 31st player on what is supposed to be a 28 man roster, with the other two slots being homegrown player exceptions.
        .
        Trusty is one of those homegrown exceptions. There were hints at the time of his signing that they acted when they did because of potential interest from elsewhere in signing him.
        .
        Last season, perhaps in order to add Trusty but I am be no means confident in my memory, they “loaned” Anderson Conceicao to create a roster space. Of the latter I am certain. And then at the open practice at which Edu broke his leg/ankle, I saw Anderson physically present inside the stadium and participating.
        .
        We the general public do not know all the tricks available.
        .
        After all, this is MLS, and ancient Byzantium, aka Constantinople, is transparent and logical by comparison.

    • No one has been declared to have a season-ending injury.
      .
      If Herbers recovery from surgery is slow, … .
      .
      A player could be sold outright to the Steel perhaps.
      .
      But there is no forty-man roster equivalent to baseball in soccer retaining control for the Fifteen players not with the big club.
      .
      Should there be? That’s a good question. It would require owners to pay for 40 players instead of 28, or 31. But for player development some type of option system would make a great deal of sense.
      .
      It won’t happen until the stability of current player development arrangements is acquired. Current arrangements are ostensibly under threat at USL meetings alleged to be happening in Chicago sometime this week. (Thank you, Steve Whisler!)

  8. The roster is at 30 since Ayuk was loaned out this year which means that also have an int’l spot open.

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