Isidro Martinez felt the time was right to step outside his comfort zone.
The 23-year-old midfielder grew up in Texas, played high school and collegiate soccer in the state and spent the last two seasons with the USL Championship’s Rio Grande Valley Toros. In 2021 he’s crossing state lines to play for New Mexico United.
NMU announced Monday it has signed Martinez, an attacking center midfielder who coach Troy Lesesne said was “knocking on the door” of earning a spot with Major League Soccer’s Houston Dynamo. Instead, after a fair amount of recruiting, Lesesne convinced the Texan to bring his game out of Texas.
“The decision wasn’t that tough,” Martinez said in a Zoom media interview. “It’s a new opportunity with what Troy is building in New Mexico, and that’s what attracted me. This is something different for me to explore. I’m excited to be part of it.”
Martinez, who goes by “Chelo,” appeared in all of Rio Grande Valley’s 48 matches since his debut, starting 45 of them. He set a club record in 2019 with eight assists.
Lesesne had no trouble envisioning Martinez as a key facilitator in United’s possession-based attack.
“Chelo’s a really technical center midfielder,” Lesesne said, “and when we played against him, he was the best player on the field each time. I see him being a great connector between our back line and our attack, a really good two-way center midfielder.”
Martinez enjoyed considerable success in Texas, helping his Simon Rivera High School team finish 28-0 and bring a 6A championship trophy home to Brownsville in 2015. As a senior he was named Gatorade Texas Player of the Year.
In college, Martinez played four seasons at UT Rio Grande Valley and scored nine career goals with 13 assists before turning pro.
Martinez is the fourth new player to sign with NMU during this offseason, joining forward Ilija Ilic, midfielder Harry Swartz, and Cibola High School alum and midfielder Sergio Rivas. Lesesne believes the additions will help United take another step after last season’s run to the Western Conference semifinals. Martinez agreed.
“I’ve seen New Mexico since year one and I know where they’re going,” Martinez said. “The ultimate goal is to win a championship. I want to help them achieve that.”