Atlanta United has two streaks going, both of which the team would surely like to end.
The first is it has yet to win an MLS game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium this season with woeful Colorado on deck on Saturday.
The second, which affects the first, is that reigning league MVP Josef Martinez has scored just two goals, and none in the run of play since he scored the tying goal against Cincinnati in 1-1 draw on March 10.
Put them together, along with defensive mistakes that are being punished, and the defending MLS champs are last in the East in points (5) and last in the league in goals scored (5).
“We need, of course, desperately, a good result at home,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said.
The probability of getting that result would increase if Martinez can score. He poured in a single-season record 31 goals during last year’s regular season as part of a record 34 overall.
De Boer said after last week’s 2-1 loss to Dallas in which Martinez scored on a penalty kick in the final seconds that he wasn’t worried about his striker. He said a version of the same thing again on Thursday.
“It's things that every striker has sometimes,” he said. “You just need that tap-in or that ugly (goal) and suddenly they have that feeling back again. For me, the most important thing is he gets those chances and I'm convinced when the first one will fall, a lot will fall behind them. I'm not worried.”
Martinez’s struggles early can be explained. He could rarely get involved in the offense in the 3-4-3 formation. He frequently was left on an island trying to single-handedly beat at least three defenders. That’s when he could get the ball. He rarely did, with only 10 shots, three on goal, in the first four games.
After de Boer switched the formation, Martinez has gotten a lot more touches and as a result more shots with 10, four on goal, in the past two games.
If Martinez can score, it may take the pressure off, and suddenly Atlanta United may more closely resemble the teams of the previous two seasons that scored 70 goals.
And the team is feeling some pressure. Its only win at Mercedes-Benz Stadium came in the Champions League against Monterrey, which was protecting a 3-0 lead. That victory was March 14.
“Who are we to overlook any team,” captain Michael Parkhurst said. “It doesn't matter if it's Colorado or Kansas City or any team in the East. Given our situation and that it's a home game, it's an important game that we need to win.”
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