Hofstra’s Martinez aims for large soccer stage

When Hofstra men's soccer senior defender Richard Martinez got called up to compete for the Puerto Rico national team last year, he initially thought it would be a team comprised of the best players age 23 and under from his native country. However much to the surprise of Martinez, 10 minutes before his first practice he discovered this would be the actual  Puerto Rican national team and that World Cup qualifiers against much older players would soon be in his future.

Martinez made the most of this surprise opportunity on the global stage playing every minute of five World Cup qualifier games. The experience going up against the world’s best players has paid major dividends for the Hofstra defender both for his senior year and his hopes of playing the sport he loves professionally upon graduation.

“Mentally it gives me a lot of confidence,” said Martinez of how playing against the world’s best soccer players has set him up well for competing against teams in Hofstra’s highly competitive conference, the Colonial Athletic Association. “My whole mentality from that point on has changed.”

Even before becoming one of a select few players to compete in World Cup qualifiers, Martinez made a huge impact at Hofstra his freshman season scoring the winning penalty kick in a shootout victory over George Mason in the 2006 CAA title game. This was Hofstra’s last appearance in the NCAA College Cup and Martinez hopes his collegiate career can be capped once again with some late November soccer. After a 6-0 shutout win at Delaware this past Saturday the Pride are 5-5 and 3-1 in the CAA heading into tomorrow’s conference battle at Drexel. .

“We would definitely like to extend our season as long as possible,” said Martinez, who earned All-CAA first team accolades last season.

While 5’9 160-pound Martinez has high aspirations for seeing his Pride squad compete against the best college players next month, he hopes next year he will have an opportunity to routinely go against the best the U.S has to offer in Major League Soccer (MLS). Martinez re-united with former Hofstra teammates Gary Flood and Michael Todd, who  have both competed at the MLS level, while playing with the Long Island Rough Riders of the Premier Development League this past summer. Flood and Todd have both offered encouragement to Martinez in his quest to excel his senior season and reach the MLS stage.

“He’s always been a true gentleman and worked extremely hard in practice,” said Hofstra head men’s soccer coach Richard Nuttall of Martinez. “He is a great leader with great athletic ability.”

Martinez, who has already been invited to a soccer combine in Florida this coming January, is hopeful will get a shot to try out in front of MLS scouts soon after his Hofstra career ends. However for the time being he is solely focused on embracing his final days at Hofstra hoping his senior season will end when when there are no leaves left on the trees.

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