So Tuesday, Martinez looked on as Martin Murphy subbed in to his starting position at midfield and his teammates became locked in a battle with the Bulldogs.
“I think it always changes something when you mix up the line,” coach Carlos Somoano said. “We didn’t expect he was going to play, and then the trainers cleared him. We just looked a little bit sluggish (on the field) and just from experience, Enzo is the kind of guy who finds a way to pull us through when we need it.”
The junior did not take the field during the announcement of the starting lineup or as the opening whistle sounded. In fact, Martinez stood as a spectator on the sidelines until almost one-third of the game had expired — a position incredibly unfamiliar to him.
“He had the brace on, so I didn’t feel like it was a major risk to send him in,” Somoano said. “And he’s had a couple of days off practice, so I thought he might actually have some fresh legs.”
With only 15 minutes remaining in the first half, Martinez sprang into action to see if he could open up a scoring drive for the Tar Heels.
“I trust my teammates,” Martinez said. “It wasn’t like I was thinking, ‘Oh, nothing is happening because I’m not out there.’ But of course, I had a massive desire to go in. I couldn’t stand being on the bench. So when coach called my name, I told him I was ready.”
Martinez said he pushed through the pain in his knee by altering his style of play. He stayed on the field for the remainder of UNC’s 2-1 overtime victory.
“Once you get into the game, you get into this zone where you don’t think about many other things,” he said. “But of course it’s in the back of your head. I knew I didn’t want to shoot with my left foot because it would hurt. I knew I didn’t want to tackle with my left or do as much dribbling.”
And his presence on the pitch was surely noted. Tallying four shots — two of which were on goal — Martinez managed to spark life into the UNC offense which, despite 35 shot attempts, couldn’t seem to find the back of the net.
“When he came in and was able to fight through his injury, he had a tremendous effect on the game,” Rob Lovejoy said. “It definitely made the difference. He played well and helped the whole team.”
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