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Atlanta United’s Martinez good to go for NYCFC

Joking that they would chop off the injured fingers if necessary, Atlanta United manager Gerardo Martino said Josef Martinez should play in Sunday’s game against unbeaten NYCFC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Martinez suffered an injury Wednesday when he jammed two fingers on his left hand into the shoulder of teammate Leandro Gonzalez Pirez during a finishing drill.

Martinez stayed on the ground for several minutes after the collision, telling trainers that he felt pain in his fingers, wrist, arm and elbow. The trainers put on Martinez a shoulder-to-hand aircast as a precaution. 

Martinez returned to training Thursday wearing a small cast or brace on his wrist and hand. He wore it again during Friday’s training session.

The Venezuelan has scored five goals in five games this season and 24 in 25 MLS games. He has four hat tricks and needs one more to tie the all-time league record.

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Teammate Julian Gressel said he has played wearing a brace on his hand in the past and that Martinez should be fine if it is needed.

Striker Hector Villalba didn’t participate in training Friday. Martino said “Maybe, yes” when asked if Villalba is out for Sunday’s game. Villalba felt a discomfort in one of his hamstrings in last week’s 5-0 win against LAFC. Villalba hasn’t trained this week. Martino said if this were a decisive game later in the season, there’s a chance that Villalba would play. He has one goal and two assists this season after scoring 13 goals with 11 assists last season.
Ezequiel Barco trained for the second consecutive day. Martino said Barco will train again Saturday and they will decide if he will either start or be in the 18. Barco, the most expensive transfer in MLS history at a reported fee of $15 million, has yet to play this season after sustaining a quad injury in the week of the season-opening game at Houston. Martino said that Barco has looked good during training sessions this week.

If Villalba can’t or doesn’t play, Martino said Barco, Miguel Almiron, Romario Williams, Brandon Vazquez or Andrew Carleton could fill in as the second striker if the team plays a 3-5-2 formation. Atlanta United has won four consecutive games using the scheme.

Defender Franco Escobar trained with Atlanta United’s reserves Friday for the first time since sustaining a concussion on March 17 in the second half of the 4-1 win against Vancouver. Martino said they hope Escobar can continue training and compete for a spot in the 18 for next week’s game against the L.A. Galaxy at StubHub Center. Escobar started the season’s first three games.

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