New Omiya Ardija star Saul Martinez first came to the attention of Japanese football fans in September 2005, when as a member of the Honduras national side he took part in what turned out to be a remarkable 5-4 defeat for his team. This nevertheless was the first time that Japan had conceded four goals in a game since losing 4-1 to Argentina in 2003 - and during the first half of the match in Miyagi Stadium, it looked as if Honduras were capable of dishing out a similar scoreline, Martinez more than playing his part in an attacking display full of pace and individual skill.
It was just eight minutes into the match that the then Shanghai Shenhua striker caught the eye, beating three men on the way to creating an assist for team-mate Wilmer Velasquez to open the scoring. Martinez chipped in with a goal of his own just before the interval and turned provider once again five minutes into the second period.
His first major splash on the international scene, however, occurred in 2001, a goal against Brazil helping Hondurans to rise to an impressive third place finish in the Copa America in Colombia. By this time, Martinez had already left his country's domestic club football for the MSL in the United States - but 2002 would see him make a remarkable move to Shanghai in the C-League. The following year was Speedy's most successful to date as he finished top scorer in the league and earned plaudits as one of the best - if not the best - player in China.
Speedy in action for Shanghai Shenhua
2004 and 2005 failed to match up to such a fine start to his career in Asia, but upon leaving Shenhua, Martinez nevertheless elected to stay in the Far East and accept the offer from Omiya. "Japan is the strongest footballing country in the whole continent of Asia," he commented," and when you think of the game in Japan, you think of a clean sport - at least, that's my impression. It seems like a good environment to play football and the support for the J-League is growing. I feel very optimistic about being here."
Saul Martinez prepares for the big J1 kick-off
The final pre-seasom match against Kawasaki Frontale at the end of February was something of a disappointment for Martinez as a new signing keen to make a good impression, failing to get a shot on target and not really appearing to be on the same wavelength as the Ardija midfield. "It's coming, though, it's getting better," he said afterwards of the understanding between himself and his new team-mates. "There's only a little gap between us now, I think we're learning how to play together and these guys are good players. When Daigo Kobayashi and the others attack from midfield, it makes me feel confident that we can develop the connections we need to create a lot of chances. And me, I'm a born striker. God made me to score goals."