Atlanta United’s Gonzalo Pineda explains Josef Martinez suspension

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

Credit: Curtis Compton / Curtis.Compton@

The need to maintain a culture within the franchise and repeated instances of negative behaviors are why Atlanta United suspended Josef Martinez for one week Wednesday, manager Gonzalo Pineda said Thursday.

Pineda said multiple disciplinary actions were considered, but Steven Cannon, the CEO of Arthur M. Blank Sports and Entertainment and the interim club president, team vice president Carlos Bocanegra and Pineda finalized the punishment Tuesday. Pineda called Martinez and told him that he could rejoin the club Monday. Pineda said that Martinez said “OK.”

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“I was very clear with him that he’s welcome back on Monday,” Pineda said. “Actually, it’s understanding that he’s valuable for all of us here. He’s a great player. And I want him back. It’s just a matter of what is more important, the culture or scoring goals, and for me it’s the culture over anything.”

Pineda said the punishment was necessary because he and Martinez got into an argument in the locker room Sunday following the team’s 2-1 loss at Portland. Pineda said there was no physical altercation between himself and Martinez, who he said was 2-3 yards away from him. Pineda said the punishment wasn’t about Martinez’s behavior toward him. Instead, it was about Martinez disrespecting the club. Pineda declined to go into the past bad behaviors, but said that he and Martinez have an open relationship.

“We want all to respect each other here,” Pineda said. “We want all to have good behaviors. We all can be upset at things, for sure. Because it’s live, because we live by winning and losing. But the reaction that we have has to be in a respectful manner to everyone here.”

Midfielder Thiago Almada said Martinez has apologized to his teammates. Asked if Martinez has apologized to him, Pineda said no.

Pineda wouldn’t say if he believes Martinez will be with the team next season because he said no one is yet thinking about next year. Martinez has one year remaining on his contract. The team has an option on the contract for 2024.

Pineda said he wouldn’t describe Martinez as being a problem for the team. Nor would he say that Martinez’s poor behaviors have made his job more challenging or negatively affected the team’s results this season. Atlanta United trails seventh-place Cincinnati by six points, with five games remaining. The team will host Toronto on Saturday. It is in danger of missing the playoffs for only the second time in six seasons.

Martinez hasn’t started the past four games. Pineda said he doesn’t believe that not starting led to Martinez’s reactions after the Portland game. He said they twice had face-to-face meetings about Martinez being used as a sub and that he was OK with the role.

“I love all my players,” Pineda said. “And for me, being a coach, my responsibility is to try to bring the best out of everyone. When you are on a contender, it’s very easy to be a good teammate, a good coach, a good person. It’s very simple. I’ve been there.

“So in the difficult times when you’re losing is where you have to find who’s truly committed to the cause, who is truly a good leader, who is truly a good teammate, who is truly a good guy for the locker room.”

Pineda and Almada said they believe that Martinez will return Monday. Atlanta United will play at Orlando on Wednesday.

“I need him to be back to Josef Martinez ... when he trains hard, where he does the right things on and off the field, when he’s a good leader,” Pineda said. “Things that he has done in the past is nothing new for him. I expect that Josef Martinez on Monday, and he’s going to be more than welcome in this environment.”

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Atlanta United 0, Chicago 0

Aug. 6 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 1

Aug. 13 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2

Aug. 17 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

Aug. 21 Atlanta United 2, Columbus 2

Aug. 28 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 2

Aug. 31 Philadelphia 4, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 4 Portland 2, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 1 at New England, 1:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE