It was almost a perfect comeback for Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez after being away from the club for more than a month.
On Sunday against the New York Red Bulls, Martinez converted on a penalty kick and an impressive goal off of a cross from Franco Escobar. Martinez headed the ball toward the right corner of the goal and it bounced off the top post and in, past Red Bulls’ goalkeeper Luis Robles to give Atlanta the 3-2 lead in stoppage time.
Martinez was in front of the crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and he ripped off his jersey. He was the star again for his club. He not only led the team in goals scored, but he also won five fouls, the most of any Atlanta United player.
The excitement, however, didn’t last long. New York tied the game two minutes later when Bradley Wright-Phillips snuck past the defense and scored from eight yards out.
“It was a difficult game,” said Martinez, who opted not to talk about his individual performance. “We can't give up that last goal. We're not little kids, we're players with a lot of experience, guys have a lot of experience in this league. There's good things and bad things, we just have to learn from it.”
Both of Martinez’ goals came in the last 30 minutes of the game. The 2018 Major League Soccer MVP did on Sunday what made him so valuable to the club the past two seasons.
Despite being away from the team since June 1 while fulfilling his duties with Venezuela in the Copa America tournament, it didn’t take much time for him to return to his prior form with Atlanta United, where he was near the top of the MLS in goals scored with 10 prior to Sunday’s game.
“Josef always is a winner,” manager Frank de Boer said. “He gets everybody walking on (their) toes in a positive way, you have to be alert, because he’s a winner.”
When a goal is scored in way like Martinez did in stoppage time to take the lead, the expectation from the club is to walk out of the game with three more points in the MLS standings. That wasn’t the case on Sunday for Atlanta United.
“I feel sorry for him,” de Boer said. “You come back ... and you get the feeling he’s the man of course.. and he’s still the man, but with only one point. (It’s) not nice for him because he wants to be the star of course and now its literally taken off of him, now everybody is talking about that point and not Josef.”
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