June 2, 2018 Atlanta: — HAT TRICK — Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez scores his third goal of the night on a penalty kick for the hat trick and a 3-1 victory against Philadelphia Union during the second half in a MLS soccer match on Saturday, June 2, 2018, in Atlanta. Martinez is now tied for the MLS record for career hat tricks with 5. He is the fastest player in MLS history to achieve this. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez on Barco, Pity and Venezuela

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez may be heating up at just the right time for Atlanta United.

The reigning MLS MVP and holder of numerous league records scored twice in Sunday’s 3-0 win at Sporting KC to increase his season total to four as Atlanta United (3-3-2) prepares to host Toronto Wednesday in the second of a string of eight games in 28 days.

Martinez spoke after Tuesday’s training session, covering a variety of topics including his injured arm, Ezequiel Barco, Pity Martinez, and the unrest in his native country of Venezuela.

Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q. Can you explain the second goal in the Sporting KC game?

A. That’s what they pay me for, right? To score goals. I get criticized when I’m not scoring and now I get criticized when I do.

Q. What does it mean for the league to have Atlanta United playing with this kind of confidence?

A. I think we gave the league a lot last year, football speaking on the field and off the field with everything the club has been able to do in just two years. 

I think it’s something that’s going to be difficult to repeat for other clubs in such a short period of time. 

We know we have another important game on the weekend so we can’t be focused on what we did in the past. We know we have to look forward and keep getting results and see if we deserve it.

Q. What happened to your arm and is it OK?

A. I had a game against the Yankees and I had a bad movement. That’s what happened.

Q. Was it making a pitch or fielding a grounder?

A. There were two outs so I had to get the third out. It was a really fast play and I made the throw.

Q. When Ezequiel Barco scored against Sporting KC, he came and jumped into your arms. Do you guys have a special relationship with him? Do you see yourself as a mentor to him?

A. Every player has their own way of being. Barco is one of the guys that I speak with the most. Last year, I was always with Miguel (Almiron). But now he’s one of the players I talk to the most. 

Yes, I try to help him but it’s up to him whether he listens to me or not. I’m there trying to help him. I’m really happy for him because he’s been in good form lately. He’s been very involved in everything we are doing on the field. I’m really happy that he’s in good form. I know we are going to miss him as he goes off to the World Cup.

We wish him well and hope he comes back healthy.

Q. The last time you played Toronto you lost an opportunity to win the Supporters’ Shield. Does that loss stick with the team and prove any extra motivation (for Wednesday)?

A. No. They took a trophy from us but I think the one we ended up winning was better. It’s not extra motivation at all. Every game is important for us. Right now you are seeing that we are on a good path and we want to continue that. It doesn’t matter who we are playing. It’s not extra motivation.

Q. With everything going on in Venezuela, are your friends and family OK back home?

A. I think my family is OK. I think my friends are OK, as well, but they don’t tell me a lot. It hurts because you know that people are suffering. It’s a very difficult situation. We can never put our heads down. We have to keep fighting and I think the best thing I can do individually is give my best on the field and give people something to be proud of.

Q. How are you seeing Pity Martinez adjust and change as the season progresses?

A. I just think he needs a little bit more time. He’s still trying to get adapted to everything we are doing. A lot of people are critics but I don’t think you can say something to a person just because they make a mistake. We know he’s a great player and doing everything he can to help us. He’s going to be important for us for the rest of the season.

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