Atlanta United was so keen to scout Pity Martinez that Carlos Bocanegra jumped out of a car, ran across a gridlocked freeway and jumped a fence to watch him play in Argentina.
The Indiana Jones moment happened two years ago when Bocanegra was part of a team of Atlanta United personnel who were in Argentina scouting players.
Bocanegra thinks they were coming from Huracan, where they were watching Franco Escobar and Newell’s Old Boys, when they ran into traffic caused by fanatics near River Plate’s stadium, Estadio Monumental. Not wanting to miss the game, Bocanegra got out of the car and made his way into the stadium.
“Traffic was slow,” Bocanegra said. “It wasn’t too crazy.”
That was the first time he saw Martinez play.
Two years later, Martinez was introduced as Atlanta United’s newest signing Friday at the team’s training ground in Marietta.
“To have someone of Pity’s quality come here to Atlanta United is fantastic for us,” Bocanegra said. “He will raise the level in training, will raise the level in games, will raise the level of the team.”
Another time Bocanegra scouted Martinez wasn’t nearly as harrowing. It happened in Orlando in January 2018 when River Plate was there training ahead of a tournament.
Bocanegra remembers thinking, “If we can get a hold of him, he’s for us” after watching Martinez train.
He said that even though River Plate was in the preseason, Martinez was sharp, even in a 5-versus-2 drill.
“Attention to detail there shows what he can provide in the game,” Bocanegra said.
Part of that scouting process included thinking about how Martinez would deal with playing in front of 70,000 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
Because Martinez regularly played in front of that many people in Argentina, Bocanegra said it made that aspect of the scouting that much easier.
“Go and watch a game at River, the intensity, the pressure, what the fans demand every game from these guys, for the players to perform on the field, you have to take that into account when you come to play for Atlanta,” Bocanegra said. “I’ve talked about the pressure of being No. 10 for River, the league down there, that’s not lost on us because we play in front of 70,000 people here. You have to have that character to be able to go out there and perform.
“That’s a big factor on players coming into Atlanta. We have to take that into account, if they can perform on the big stage here.”
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