Josef Martinez’s 100th goal lifts Atlanta United past Miami

Josef Martinez’s 100th goal for Atlanta United resulted in a 1-0 win against Miami in an important game in the MLS Eastern Conference playoff race on Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

After he scored, Martinez was given an Atlanta United jersey with “100″on the back.

“I’m happy yes, for sure, also worried about the game because this is an amazing game today but we won and this is important and I’m so happy because it’s not every day you make 100 goals,” Martinez said. “Also, I want to say thank you for my teammates that are here and the players that were here before and everyone working at Atlanta United and also my city.”

The goal came on a penalty kick in the 78th minute. Chants of “Josef, Martinez” from the announced attendance of 42,519 bounced around the stadium for several minutes after the game-winning goal. He has scored 87 goals in 102 appearances in league games, five in playoff games, five in the Champions League, two in the U.S. Open Cup and one in the Campeones Cup. He became the fastest player to reach 100 goals in MLS history. He needed just 125 appearances.

“Probably it was destiny that Josef scored the 100th goal to help us win as a team,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said.

The win moved the Five Stripes (10-8-9) from eighth into sixth place and within the seven teams that will qualify for the playoffs. The team trails third-place D.C. United by one point with seven games remaining. It will continue its push toward the playoffs at Montreal on Saturday.

Martinez, after being held out of last Saturday’s 1-0 loss to Philadelphia, was back in Pineda’s lineup. Also in the 11 were Luiz Araujo, Ezequiel Barco, Marcelino Moreno, Santiago Sosa, Brooks Lennon, George Bello, Miles Robinson, Alan Franco, back from a yellow-card suspension, Anton Walkes and goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

On Tuesday, Pineda, Robinson and Bello said the team needed to come out with more intensity than it did against Philadelphia.

It wasn’t evident in the first half, partially because of Miami’s shape and tactics. Atlanta United did put three shots on goal, one less than its entire production at Philadelphia, with Martinez putting another over the crossbar from six yards out. But, like against Philadelphia, there weren’t a lot off-the-ball runs. There was a lot of standing around when it had the ball and Martinez and Araujo didn’t seem to be on the same page as their teammates. But Pineda liked the rhythm with which the team was playing.

Miami, which was outscored 9-1 in its two previous games, also wasted a chance when Robbie Robinson shot wide from a few yards away just before halftime.

Pineda subbed in Matheus Rossetto for Moreno, who created two chances in the first 45 minutes and put a low-percentage shot on goal, to start the second half. Pineda said he brought on Rossetto because he wanted two central midfielders to play beside each other and open space higher up the field for Barco and Araujo. Pineda said he may have given Moreno too much to attempt to do in trying to start plays from deeper spots on the field. Moreno would sometimes get high up the field, resulting in Barco and Araujo having to drop back. Pineda said that he was satisfied with Moreno’s performance but felt a tactical change was needed.

With just one shot on goal in the first 21 minutes of the second half, Pineda took off Walkes, one of the three centerbacks, and put on Jake Mulraney, a winger, in the attempt to create some offense 67th minute.

The energy and momentum began to change even more toward Atlanta United.

Atlanta United was finally able to run a counterattack in the 71st minute when Mulraney played in Martinez. He crossed the ball to Araujo who, despite receiving it on his left foot, chose not to shoot and instead hit a weak pass back across the goal that rolled out for a goal kick.

Robinson created a turnover and played in Mulraney, who put his shot right at Miami goalkeeper Nick Marsman from 12 yards in the 75th minute.

Bello got to the endline and put in a cross that went off the arm of Leandro Gonzalez Pires in the 76th minute, resulting in a penalty kick. Martinez scored for his team-leading 10th goal this season.

It was a deserved result.

Atlanta United outshot Miami 19-7, and put seven shots on goal to the visitor’s 0. Atlanta United had 61.9 percent of the possession and created 13 chances to Miami’s five. Atlanta United posted its eight shutout.

“One day, hopefully, people remember me as someone who gave absolutely everything for the shirt, everything for the colors,” Martinez said. “This club means more to me than any other club and my heart belongs to this club and you know I’ve had a lot of experiences here so I’m a part of this club and the city and the club have become a part of me that means a lot to me.”


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