Josef Martinez will re-join Atlanta United for training

Atlanta United manager Gabriel Heinze  (left) confers with striker Josef Martinez (7) during the second half against Chicago on Saturday, April 24, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)
Caption
Atlanta United manager Gabriel Heinze (left) confers with striker Josef Martinez (7) during the second half against Chicago on Saturday, April 24, 2021, at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez will re-join the team next week, according to manager Gabriel Heinze, who said Saturday that he doesn’t know if the striker will be available for Wednesday’s game at Cincinnati.

Heinze declined to say why Martinez hasn’t been allowed to train with the first team the past two weeks. He said he wants to keep that reason within the team.

“Josef will be back, and he will help us go through this moment,” Heinze said.

Jake Mulraney was asked about Martinez’s situation Thursday, and Alec Kann after Saturday’s game. Neither player said he knew why Martinez wasn’t training with the first team.

With Saturday’s 1-0 loss to New England on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the team is winless in its past eight and has been shut out in four of its past five.

Kann said getting back Martinez, one of the best finishers in MLS history with 79 goals in 91 regular-season appearances, should help an attack that has scored 13 goals in 13 games this season.

“We need people who can create chances and score goals,” Kann said. “He’s shown he can do that. Bring back his fire and attitude to the team to score goals and win games.”

Martinez hasn’t trained with the first team since returning from Brazil, where he was with Venezuela for the Copa America. While there, Martinez tested positive for COVID-19, despite being previously vaccinated. He spent the next 2-3 weeks in a hotel room, unable to train. When he returned to Atlanta, club President Darren Eales said July 7 that Martinez was training apart while he worked to improve his fitness. It seems that something happened between Heinze and Martinez between then and July 15, which is when Heinze said that Martinez wasn’t being allowed to train with the first team and that it wasn’t related to Martinez’s fitness.

Heinze defended Erick Torres, the player who has most often been used in place of Martinez. He has yet to score in 499 minutes this season.

“You think that a player doesn’t score we need to change him,” Heinze said. “I don’t think this way about football in my life. I like to give a lot of confidence (to players). Let me repeat, ‘Cubo’ is not the bad one here. I’m the bad one here.”

Torres began the season as the team’s third-choice striker behind Martinez and Lisandro Lopez. Lopez earned the minutes while the team waited on Martinez to regain his confidence and fitness after last season’s knee surgery.

Torres has been forced into action because of Martinez’s call-up to Venezuela and Lopez leaving the team because of his father’s death.

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Atlanta United’s 2021 MLS schedule

April 17 Atlanta United 0, Orlando 0

April 24 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 1

May 1 New England 2, Atlanta United 1

May 9 Atlanta United 1, Inter Miami 1,

May 15 Atlanta United 1, Montreal 0

May 23 Atlanta United 1, Seattle 1

May 29 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

June 20 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

June 23 NYCFC 1, Atlanta United 0

June 27 Atlanta United 0, New York Red Bulls 0

July 3 Chicago 3, Atlanta United 0

July 8 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

July 17 New England 1, Atlanta United 0

July 21 at Cincinnati, 8 p.m., FS1

July 24 vs. Columbus, 3:30 p.m., ABC

July 30 at Orlando, 8 p.m., ESPN

Aug. 4 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 7 at Columbus, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 15 vs. LAFC, 4 p.m. ESPN

Aug. 18 vs. Toronto, 7 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at D.C. United, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 28 vs. Nashville, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 10 vs. Orlando, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 15 vs. Cincinnati, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 18 vs. D.C. United, 3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 25 at Philadelphia,3:30 p.m., Univision

Sept. 29 vs. Inter Miami, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 2 at Montreal, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 16 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 20 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 27 vs. Inter Miami, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Oct. 30 vs. Toronto, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 3 at New York Red Bulls, TBD, BSSO/BSSE

Nov. 7 at Cincinnati, 3:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE