Ask any player before or after the match, and the name that always comes up is Josef Martinez.
The Venezuelan international has erupted into a level of form seldom seen in MLS, and has seemingly fit right in at Atlanta United’s new ground.
Even though the Five Stripes were held to a 3-3 draw against their Floridian rivals, the headlines around the city and league will all include Josef, who scored his second consecutive hattrick tonight – only the third time in MLS history.
That’s right, Martinez has done something only two other players have managed to do in the league. More impressively, he’s tied with a season-high three hat-tricks. The most recent player to manage that feat was Sebastian Giovinco.
But behind all the records and tenacity, lies a very different person. Off the pitch, Martinez isn’t by any means arrogant, to the contrary, he’s a very humble man. He’s more quiet, polite, and respectful of anybody who addresses him. He speaks five languages and isn’t afraid to use each of them in a press conference. Always walking around with a smile, always joking around with his teammates, always listening to Salsa music in the locker room. In a team full of latin flair, he fits in as the center of the locker room.
On the pitch, it’s the same thing. He’s scored seven goals in the first three matches at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The wider playing surface combined with turf has allowed him to use his biggest strengths to his advantage. With Almiron pushing higher behind him, there’s no more dangerous duo on the counter.
And that’s the overall theme, the team is built essentially around Josef Martinez. When he’s healthy, Atlanta are nearly unstoppable. When he’s not, they seem lost. 16 goals in 14 games only makes you wonder if he would’ve easily beaten the MLS scoring record of 27, if he were healthy all season.
It’s a question that will have to wait until next year, barring him scoring an obscene amount of goals in the final stretch of the season.
REVISION: 70,425 is the official attendance. #ATLUTD
— Alex Mascitti (@AlexMascitti) September 16, 2017