Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez isn’t just breaking or extending MLS records.
With two goals in Wednesday’s 2-0 victory at Cincinnati, Martinez is closing on world records set by some of soccer’s greatest players.
His first goal on Wednesday extended his streak of scoring in league games to 15. According to a Twitter post from FIFA, it’s the fifth-longest streak in the sport’s history:
Longest goal-scoring streaks in a league
21 Lionel Messi, 2012-13, Spain
19 Josef Bican, 1939-40, Czech Republic
16 Teodor Peterek, 1937-38, Poland
16 Gerd Muller, 1969-70, Germany
15 Josef Martinez, 2019, U.S.
That’s some heady company.
Atlanta United has four games remaining in the regular season, so Martinez can’t catch Messi ... this year.
But turning to MLS, he still has a very good chance of catching LAFC’s Carlos Vela in the race for the Golden Boot, which Martinez won last season when he set a league record with 31 goals. Vela has 28 goals. Martinez has 26.
“I told you, maybe three months ago, he wins that because he has the better team,” Martinez said. “But I try. You have to try. Any chance I have, you have to make your best.
But you have cut the gap to two? Are you thinking about it?
“I try, I try, I try,” he said.
His two goals on Wednesday were different, but both amazing.
On the first, Martinez started his run six yards from Atlanta United’s goal, which is where he is typically stationed on corner kicks because of his leaping ability. When the kick was defended, Martinez started sprinting, leaving Cincinnati defenders in his wake. He received a pass from Emerson Hyndman about 30 yards from goal. Martinez spied Pity Martinez near midfield, on the left. He passed the ball to him.
Pity Martinez dribbled while waiting on Josef Martinez, still sprinting, to reach the defenders’ line. Pity Martinez then split the two defenders with a perfectly weighted ball. Martinez ran onto it, took a couple of touches, and fired a right-footed shot past goalkeeper Przemsylaw Tyton in the 59th minute.
“Because they played so deep and we couldn’t find any space behind them,” Josef Martinez said. “This particular team, it’s so difficult. The field is not the best. For me, the first goal was more important than the second.”
Oh, but that second goal.
Manager Frank de Boer thought it was the more beautiful of the two.
It may have been the best goal in Atlanta United’s short history.
The play started with a goal kick by Brad Guzan that sailed deep into Cincinnati’s half. Cincinnati won the initial header, but Hector Villalba fought to win the second ball and it bounced to Julian Gressel, who one-timed a pass to Josef Martinez.
Here’s where it gets good.
Martinez had already started running into space. The pass was behind him. So, Martinez hit the ball with his trailing right heel over his head. The ball landed in front of him. He faked a right-footed shot, which spun Maikel van der Werff.
Moving now to his left as a result of the fake, he watched Nick Hagglund slide past in his attempt to block what he thought was going to be a shot.
Martinez took another touch to his left as van der Werff tried to close him down a second time, and then curled a left-footed shot past Tyton.
It was a golazo.
“Sometimes you just have to applaud a fantastic goal and it was a fantastic goal,” manager Frank de Boer said.
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