Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez said he seriously considered retiring during the offseason after complications related to the surgery performed on his knee.
Martinez sustained a torn ACL in his right knee in last season’s first game at Nashville. He underwent successful surgery to repair the injury in March 2020. Martinez said he had scar tissue and an infection that required three surgeries in five days in December.
After the experience, Martinez said scoring the game-winner in Sunday’s 1-0 victory against LAFC felt more special. It was his first goal at Mercedes-Benz Stadium since October 2019.
“I wanted to score so bad, but the most important are the three points,” he said. “We go think about our next game. I just enjoy it. It’s really special. I love it so much.”
The goal was Martinez’s fifth this season and moved Atlanta United to five points of Montreal in the fight for the seventh and final playoff spot. Atlanta United will host Toronto on Wednesday in a game that it will be favored to win.
The goal against LAFC was like many Martinez has scored since joining the club before its inaugural 2017 season.
Using his experience, Martinez put himself in the right spot. And his teammates, as they have many times, made sure to find him.
On the goal, the play started with Marcelino Moreno with the ball in Atlanta United’s half of the field. During the week, interim manager Rob Valentino had the team working on trying to recognize when Martinez was in a one-on-one situation and to play the ball to him.
In the 47th minute, Moreno looked up and saw a two-on-two situation with Barco and Martinez facing just two LAFC defenders. Moreno hit a long pass toward Barco. The LAFC defender marking him attempted to stop the pass with a raised leg. Instead, the ball bounced off his foot and into the space behind him. Barco caught up to the ball and dribbled before hitting a pass with the outside of his right foot back across the penalty box. Martinez struck the ball with his right foot into the lower left corner.
“Returning to play is a special thing, then if I have the opportunity to score goals or help the team, that’s welcome,” he said. “I think that’s what everyone wants I think that’s what we all want, and to move forward because during this last period we’ve had bad results and we hope to get that rhythm back and maybe not win every game but to play for the fans.”