Atlanta United’s de Boer explains why he subbed off Pity Martinez

Images from the match between Atlanta United and LAFC at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Eric Rossitch/Atlanta United)

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Images from the match between Atlanta United and LAFC at Banc of California Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Eric Rossitch/Atlanta United)

Atlanta United’s Pity Martinez was subbed out in the 59th minute of Friday’s 4-3 loss at LAFC. He didn’t look happy.

The substitution was criticized by ESPN’s announcers, as well as by some of the team’s supporters on social media who wondered why, with the team trailing by one goal, would manager Frank de Boer sub off an offensive player and not a defensive player.

Manager Frank de Boer said he subbed off Martinez because he needed to get Ezequiel Barco onto the field and that was the only position he felt was available. De Boer had already used one sub at the start of the second half at left wingback when Justin Meram replaced Mo Adams.

“Pity didn’t play that bad,” de Boer said. “He did in the second half what everyone did. He was aggressive. I wanted to make minutes for Barco. The only position was that position.  We need him also for the season. He gets only fit. These kinds of games make him fitter.”

The focus on the substitution is magnified because de Boer and Martinez have not had what looks like a solid relationship in their first seasons at Atlanta United.

Martinez has already once this season acted out during a game after being subbed.

Martinez has twice been criticized by de Boer after games for either making mistakes that he felt were dangerous, or not working hard enough on defense.

Martinez told a radio station in Argentina that he didn’t appreciate de Boer’s comments to the media because he said he hadn’t spoken to him first.

With a change in formation from a 4-4-1-1 to 3-5-2, de Boer relegated Martinez to the bench the previous two games. Martinez responded with a goal and assist in the second game.

An adductor injury suffered Wednesday by Brandon Vazquez, who was starting as the second striker, may have helped de Boer’s decision to start Martinez against LAFC.

The decision to sub out Martinez and insert Barco didn’t seem to impact the game positively or negatively. Atlanta United had chances to score the fourth goal. Martinez finished with one shot on goal in the first half  andone chance created. Barco finished with one chance created.

“You saw Barco’s energy,” de Boer said. “He was always a threat. Everybody wants that kind of Barco. We remember how he was when he left for the U20 World Cup.”