Gonzalo Martinez, 32 is a central defender with quite an impressive resume playing in South America and Italy as well as for the Colombian National team in the Confederation Cup, Copa America and in World Cup qualifiers as recently as 2006. He also anchored the backline for Libertad when they won the Paraguayan first division in 2006, as well as captained Millionarios of Colombia to the semifinals of last year’s Copa Sudamericana where they were knocked out by Club America of Mexico.
United general manager, Dave Kasper describes him as “a versatile defender with tremendous pace who we feel will add stability and leadership to our defense”. Martinez versatility and athleticism is explained by his being an outside back early in his career, but gradually moved inside where his skills and experience could be put to better use.
No doubt United is expecting Martinez to prevent the defensive breakdowns that have plagued United in big games and international competitions the past three years. Aside from two Supporter’s Shields the past two seasons, United has not added a Cup to its trophy case since 2004, nor has the team truly broken through on the international stage either in Concacaf or Copa Sudamericana.
Martinez should be in place for the beginning of training camp next week and will be cleared to play as soon as his visa paperwork is complete. He surely will be available for United is the upcoming Concacaf tournament beginning in March and considering United will partake in at least two other international competitions Superliga and the Concacaf Champions league, Martinez might be a huge boost to United finally breaking through in a big way on the international stage in club competitions taking place outside the US.
There’s a bit of a worry in that United has not had much success in solidifying their defense through the signing of a completely international defender since the early days of the league when such players as Mario Gori and Diego Sonora roamed the pitch at RFK. Thinking back on the reckless Facundo Erpen being traded away last year, and before that acclaimed defenders such as Honduran Milton Reyes and Bulgarian Galin Ivanov were largely a bust as well.
However, considering the brilliant scouting and team building that led to the signing of Emilio and Fred last year, Martinez looks to be the perfect player to slot right into the starting lineup and break that horrid series of defensive flops. He clearly seems to be athletic enough to handle the rigors of MLS as well as having the leadership experience and skill on the ball that has been glaringly absent from United’s defense since the admiral, Ryan Nelsen left after 2004. He should adapt easily to the clearly latin style of play United has implemented as well.
Martinez joins Argentine Franco Niell as the second South American to sign in as many days and if rumors are true, at least a couple more signings could be on the way. Peruvian backup keeper Jose Carvallo is reported to be all but announced, and Argentine defender Gonzalo Peralta is still a possibility.
Yet, the biggest news of the off-season is yet to come if Marcelo Gallardo is actually coming to America as reports out of South America contend. The Argentine international playmaker is on the outs with Paris St-German and has announced publicly that he is coming to MLS on a free transfer. With Christian Gomez still not signed, United would be an obvious destination, but considering the Veron fiasco, its understandable that United is keeping mum on the his status.
It’s an interesting situation as Gomez has been the heart and soul of the team for three and half years, but is balking over a new contract that doesn’t include a guarantee for next year. Gallardo is quite simply a breathtaking talent, but on the flip side he is a bit of a primadona and pedigree means nothing when it comes to adapting to MLS.
This situation might pressure Gomez into accepting United's contract offer, or it might cement the end of his United career. On the one hand you get a brilliant slightly younger, yet mercurial playmaker that could take DC to new heights or who might not adapt and underwhelm hideously. Or DC could stay with the tried, but true Gomez who hasn't been enough to push United over the top since 2004. Definitly will be interesting to see how this plays out and likely the verdict won't be in until next November.