In China on try-out, Caps defender may yet follow his heart back here
Marc Weber, The Province
Lyle Martin says he's missing Vancouver, and that's good news for the Whitecaps, who would surely miss him.
Martin, the Caps' outside right defender with the pace of a gazelle, is currently on trial with Nanchang Bayi of the second-tier Chinese Jia League.
He's still under contract with the Caps, but could be sold if he's offered a tantalizing deal and the transfer price is right for the Caps. Last season, Vancouver sold captain Adrian Cann to Danish side Esbjerg fB.
Head coach Teitur Thordarson didn't sound too optimistic this week about Martin's return, but the Caps' boss will be buoyed by Martin's nighttime notions.
"I'm over here dreaming about Vancouver at night, it's kinda crazy," said the 23-year-old Bakersfield, Calif., native. "I'm on the website all the time, checking up on the team.
"I do see myself back there."
Martin has been in China for about two and a half weeks and will play in two or three games for the club based in the southern province of Jiangxi.
After a quick stop in Bakersfield, he's scheduled to arrive back in Vancouver on Feb. 9 and, barring an earth-shattering offer, it sounds like he'll be here to stay.
Martin, though, has never been shy to express his desire to seek bigger and better options.
"I want to play somewhere where it'll help me to get on the national team quicker, or be a stepping stone to Europe," he said. "I just want to experience new leagues and higher leagues -- to see where I fit in the world soccer scene."
The Jia League, he admitted, has not thus far proven to be a step beyond the USL First Division, although he was reserving final judgment until he'd played some games.
Vancouver's defensive situation out wide is already tenuous, given that Geordie Lyall could be week-to-week all season with his back issues, and Takashi Hirano will be 35 in July. Neither can be counted on for a full slate of games.
Martin recorded a team-best five assists last season as he continued to make progress in the attacking third. He's an important part of the puzzle for the attacking-minded Thordarson, who needs to add defenders regardless of how this situation plays out.
"It's not easy to find a player with that pace," he said. "Lyle is a player that I would really like to keep here, but if it's a good opportunity for him then I understand that he would like to explore that."
More than anything, it appears this trial is proving to be an chance to explore the world. Outside of a youth club trip to England, Martin never left California before coming to the Caps.
"I didn't have this opportunity when I was younger," he said, "so I might as well take it now."
© The Vancouver Province 2009