Monterey Bay F.C.
When I got on the plane in Panama after representing El Salvador in World Cup Qualifying in November, my first year as a professional was coming to an end.
Little did I know by the time I landed in San Francisco – back in California for the first time in a long time – a new door was about to open.
I checked my phone. It was blowing up with my representative’s messages saying, ‘we have good news for you.’
I thought, what can it be?
Photo courtesy Walmer Martinez
Well, I was going home, in more ways than one. I was now the first player in Monterey Bay F.C. history.
To be honest, I never expected it. I just felt speechless. My heart started pumping, because I expected to be anywhere else for another year. Whether it was Hartford Athletic picking up my contract option or somewhere else, I just didn’t want to get my hopes up and say I was coming home to be with my family and the people I love.
But when I got the news, it was something amazing to come back to my family with.
When you think about Monterey Bay, you think of the sea, and the beach. You have these big cities like Monterey and Santa Cruz that are known for their beauty, the beaches, the rich atmosphere.
There’s a reason we’re proud to be from the greatest union of land and sea.
At the same time, though, you have these hard-working communities that surround the coast. Places like Salinas or Castroville, or maybe areas of Santa Cruz like Watsonville, filled with people who know the importance of driving toward your goals.
For me, one of those was my old coach at Santa Cruz Breakers, Efrain Burgos.
I felt like he pushed me to my limits. He always told me the things that I did not want to hear. He drilled me constantly, told me that I needed to improve. Sometimes a lot of coaches don’t want to do that, I feel, because you’re so young they don’t want to bring your self-esteem down.
Coach Burgos always pushed me.
I look back at it now and I’m like, yeah, this was the guy who made me nervous and scared to come to practice, because I knew he was ready to get on me and tell me what I needed to improve on. But he was probably one of the best coaches I’ve ever had because of that. I’m not sure I’m here today without him or the other amazing staff the Breakers had – and still have to this day.
Since his debut this past June, Walmer Martinez has made 16 appearances for El Salvador at the international level.
From Paolo Carbone – who’s now the club’s Executive Director - to Theresa Biggam and the other Directors, they were the ones that ran the show at the academy where I grew up playing. They helped provide everything for me so I could go to Italy, travel around the United States to play at these showcases. For my family, it was an expense my mother couldn’t afford, but they helped me cover these costs – traveling and uniforms, just anything – and that gave me the appreciation I still have toward these clubs and the people that helped me get to where I am today.
I would not have been able to do it without them.
And that says all you need to know about Monterey Bay, Santa Cruz, and all the cities and communities in-between. We build up our people. They might not be big cities, they’re just small communities, but especially in the soccer community here, everyone knows a bit about everyone. The soccer community here unites these small communities that are up the coast. That’s something I love because while it was always something different, you’d see different people and it was just like a family we built between the soccer world.
To this day – even now that I’m back and have had the international experience, have played in the USL Championship on the east coast – with the people that I grew up playing with, it’s always warm welcomes. They’re happy to see me, for the path I’ve taken and the career I’ve established. It’s definitely beautiful to come back home and see all the people who were part of this journey come and congratulate you and want to be part of it.
I remember getting asked, how does it feel to have that pressure, to be the first player signing for Monterey Bay?
It’s an easy answer.
I love everything about it, because I really want to be the best I can be at this club. I want to go to great lengths with this club. Hopefully we have a successful year, and from the times I’ve spoken to our Head Coach Frank Yallop, he’s really excited about what the plan is and I’m super excited to work with him because I know he’s going to make me a better player.
That’s the biggest thing I learned in the past 12 months that I’m bringing home, too. Whether it was at Hartford Athletic or with El Salvador, I learned how not to be the best player, not to be the fastest, not to be the strongest, not to be the smartest.
I learned I had weaknesses as a player.
You start seeing in great detail what you need to improve on. Being in the environment I was, that allowed me to improve as a player. You start seeing growth. To me, it was an amazing experience, and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way.
Prior to his transfer to Monterey Bay F.C., Walmer Martinez played his first professional campaign at Hartford Athletic of the USL Championship in 2021, recording 19 appearances for the side in the regular season. | Photo courtesy Hartford Athletic
There was off-field stuff too – I learned to be away from home, away from the people that I love. All of that happened this past year, and it was amazing. It wasn’t the easiest, I’ll say that, but I learned so much from it. I’m ready to put it to the test here now I’m in my hometown.
In soccer, you’re always learning, you’re always trying to get better.
That’s where Coach Yallop comes in.
Some people have told me, if there’s someone you want to play for, it’s going to be him. He’s going to make you the best player you can be. I’m excited because – to be honest – this year I’ve learned a lot, and I don’t know what I’m going to learn from him, but I know I’m going to uncover things I didn’t even know I had. He’s going to see something in me that maybe I don’t see, and he’s going to uncover it, and that’s what I’m excited for. I’m excited for the player I’m going to become.
I’m also excited for what we’re going to build as a club, and a community. When I think about opening night at newly restored Cardinale Stadium, I get chills thinking about seeing all the people from our community cheering us on at our home. The plan that they have for it, the capacity and the environment they’re trying to make this stadium to be, it’s much more than soccer. It’s bringing our culture to one place, unifying people to come together and socialize and get together for an event that brings all our communities and people together.
A standout at CSU Monterey Bay in college, Walmer Martinez will lead Monterey Bay F.C. into its inaugural season at Cardinale Stadium this year surrounded by family and friends that have helped shape his path in the game. | Photo courtesy CSU Monterey Bay
From the moment that I was announced, I’ve had so many people reach out to me from the community saying, “we’re going to be out there supporting you, 100 percent.” To me, that’s going to be an amazing feeling. I’m not sure I know quite how to describe it now, but when we walk out there and I see all those people, I know I’m going to recognize familiar faces and it’s going to be indescribable.
I’ve always said our fans are another player on the pitch, and I’m definitely excited to see what this club has in store for this community and its people.
I’m ready to be part of this big family home we’re going to create here at Monterey Bay.