“He’s coming [here] to be part of the family. He’s not coming to save us,” Cabrera said on Monday before Dynamo practice. “I don’t want him to be the savior of the Houston Dynamo.”
Not that the Dynamo are in need of saving. Houston have 28 points and are in third-place in the Western Conference, but the 22-year-old Martínez, whose signing was announced on Monday, should further bolster an attack side that already includes bright young talents Alberth Elis, Romell Quioto, Mauro Manotas and Erick "Cubo" Torres.
“The good thing with Tomás is that he’s a player that works both sides of the ball but he finds space between the lines,” said Dynamo GM Matt Jordan. “He has the ability to make the final pass. He has great vision. Great creativity. And he’s coming at a good age so we’re pleased to have him.”
Cabrera said he doesn’t know specifically where the Argentine, who will be the team's’ third Designated Player along with Elis and Torres, will help the team. Martinez has yet to train with the Dynamo pending the receipt of a P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate.
“Right now we know that he’s talented but we haven’t been able to let him interact with his teammates,” Cabrera said. “So when he interacts, that’s when we’re going to know.”
Martínez, who in his young professional career has already played in Argentina, Spain and Portugal, is mostly remembered for wearing the famed No. 10 Argentina shirt and leading his country’s U-20 side to the 2015 South American Youth Football Championship and earning a spot in the 2015 U-20 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Oddly enough, that’s where Cabrera first laid eyes on the attacking midfielder. Cabrera was working with FIFA’s Technical Study Group at the time and it required that he travel and attend CONCACAF and CONMEBOL youth tournaments.
What stood out for Cabrera when he saw Martínez play?
“He’s very talented. He’s a playmaker who is a very modern playmaker,” Cabrera said. “He can play on the left, on the right, in the middle. He scores. He assists. And he has a good IQ in terms of soccer. That’s good enough for us and now it’s a matter of getting used to the heat.”
The Houston heat and humidity is just one of the things that Martinez will have to adapt to in MLS. The Dynamo don’t plan on rushing him through his adjustment, especially since he’ll be joining an established group midway through the season.
“We’re going to support him and give him the time for him to adapt to this league, which is very complicated and very tough,” Cabrera said. “He’s going to have his time. He’s going to have his momentum to get on the field and try to help us and perform with his qualities.”