|Charlote FC's Martinez transitions to new gig: talent recruitment|
|Academy reunites him with ex-teammate, coach|
|Published Monday, January 25, 2021 8:00 pm|
|PHOTO | TROY HULL|
|Former Charlotte Independence player Alex Martinez made the transition to Charlotte FC's youth scout for its academy program.|
The longtime Charlotte area resident and former MLS and USL Championship player officially joined Charlotte FC’s academy staff on Jan. 18 as head of recruitment. The academy began training over the summer when Martinez was initially expected to join the organization, but Charlotte underwent a hiring freeze due to the financial impact of COVID-19.
The pandemic also pushed the club’s inaugural season to 2022, but the academy arm is up and running, with under-17 and U-14 sides competing in MLS NEXT. Martinez knows what it is like to be a young player hungry to become a professional, and ultimately make it as one.
The Montevideo, Uruguay native has called Rock Hill home since he was 9 years old. Charlotte had the Eagles, a faith-based USL franchise while he was growing up, but Charlotte was smaller then.
“I didn’t have a pro team growing up in my area—obviously the Eagles, but I didn’t know much about it, and then the Independence came up, but I wasn’t a kid,” said Martinez, who retired in 2019. “Charlotte FC being in the MLS makes it a little bit more special. It’s exciting for the community and the kids growing up. I’ve been in their shoes. I understand what it is to go through it and play at the MLS level and the USL level. I’m excited to hopefully be able to help and encourage them.”
Martinez grew up playing club for Discoveries SC (now Charlotte Independence SC) and Northwestern High. His professional journey began in 2014 when Sporting Kansas City selected him in the MLS SuperDraft. His career would take him to Orange County (USL) and now North Carolina FC (formerly the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks), but the majority of his professional career was in Charlotte with the Independence, alongside his brother Enzo Martinez. Alex scored eight goals and tallied 14 assists in five seasons before retiring at 29, but didn't waste any time getting into coaching, working with Discoveries and Legion Collegiate Academy, a tuition-free public charter high school in Rock Hill. He is heading into his seventh year as a coach.
“I’ve always had a passion for coaching,” Martinez said. “I was coaching while I was playing. I’m still young, but I’ve gotten a lot of opportunities and some great experience at an early age to be able to learn from good coaches and to accelerate my coaching career while I was playing. There are not a lot of people my age who get to coach academy, but I was able to do it at Discoveries.”
When the Independence decided not to re-sign him, Martinez had to decide between finding another club or retirement. While the decision was difficult, the transition has served him well, reuniting him with former Independence teammate Jorge Herrera, who joined Charlotte FC in a community role and on the academy staff last year.
“I see Jorge probably more now than while we were playing together,” Martinez said.
Martinez also reunited with his former PDL (now USL League Two) Carolina Dynamo coach Marc Nicholls, who joined Charlotte FC as technical director last year. Nicholls, who returned to North Carolina from Seattle to take the job, reached out to Martinez to get his input on the local soccer scene.
“It meant a lot that he reached out to me,” Martinez said. “He never said, ‘hey, I have a job for you,’ or anything like that.”
Said Nicholls in a statement: “I first met Alex as his coach at the Carolina Dynamo, and in all my years I don’t think that I have worked with anyone quite so passionate. It is vitally important that we recruit players who are hungry and desperate to be in a professional environment, which makes Alex ideal for this role. He possesses a real sense of community, and has deep roots and knowledge of our market.”
Nicholls and Martinez kept in contact, and when the opportunity to apply for the academy’s head of recruitment emerged, Martinez took his shot among more than 200 candidates. Academy manager Dan Lock spoke to his understanding of the local area as a significant asset.
“He has a deep knowledge of the soccer community in the Carolinas, having grown up and played here,” Lock said in a statement. “His passion for the game, together with his experience, makes him a perfect fit for our academy.”
While Martinez did not officially start until January, he has been involved with the academy since the beginning, attending games and helping the coaching staff. Now his work officially begins, seeking the five talent identifiers in young players. While not every identifier is essential for recruitment, they would like to see at least two, as well as other areas for growth in players. Intelligence pertains to a player’s knowledge of the game. Collective determines whether or not an individual is a team player. Technique focuses on elements such as passing and striking the ball. Mobility is covering ground and the intention of a player’s runs. Continuity is always being in motion and engaged.
“At times, they might not have all five of those,” Martinez said. “They might have three. They might have four. They might have two, but hopefully we can get some of those things out of the players when they join our academy.”
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