Josef Martinez has a 100-goal target to hit

Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) walks out onto the pitch against Cincinnati Wednesday Sept. 15, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Brandon Magnus/Atlanta United

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Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) walks out onto the pitch against Cincinnati Wednesday Sept. 15, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Brandon Magnus/Atlanta United

After scoring two goals in Atlanta United’s 4-0 win over Cincinnati on Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Josef Martinez said he has an objective to accomplish.

With 85 goals scored in his first 100 appearances — the most in that span in MLS history — he wants to score 15 more before the end of the season to reach 100.

He and Atlanta United have 10 games remaining, starting Saturday when they host D.C. United in a very important game in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

“That’s my dream, and my goal is to get to 100 goals,” he said. “It’s something that I have talked about with the other people around me. It’d be very nice to do it especially given all of the experiences that I’ve been through here, so, now we’re still trying to improve and give back to the fanbase. Now, we’re fighting for these playoff sports. We deserve it.”

The way that Atlanta United is playing, Martinez’s goal doesn’t seem impossible.

The team has scored seven in its past two games and has turned from a team that averaged one goal per game under its previous manager Gabriel Heinze to one that has scored 19 in its past 11 games under interim manager Rob Valentino and new manager Gonzalo Pineda.

Martinez’s goals against Cincinnati came from a header on a set piece in the first half to give the team a 2-0 lead, and then a play created by Ezequiel Barco that Martinez finished with a simple shot into the lower right corner in the second half to give the team a 3-0 lead.

Credit: MLS

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4-0 win was the Atlanta's sixth in seven games and moved it into at least seventh place, above the playoff line for the first time since May 23.

Credit: MLS

“We’re very happy for Josef’s numbers, but I’m very happy for the heart that he puts on the field,” Pineda said. “He is a team guy is a guy that is crazy for winning titles with this franchise. And that’s what I love from the leaders of this team. He’s been fantastic since I’ve been here. And I think the best for Josef is just coming.”

Since returning from South America, where he was competing for Venezuela in its World Cup qualifying games, Martinez said he has seen a different Atlanta United team in the past two games. Both were blowout wins in which he said the team played “beautiful” soccer.

Martinez said his job has been made easier by the arrival of Araujo, who notched his first goal and assist for Atlanta United against Cincinnati, the emergence of Ezequiel Barco into a bona fide force, and Marcelino Moreno.

“We have an amazing team,” he said. “Today and the last two games, defensively, we played so good, so that we have to continue that because we are just shy of something special.”