Before he walked off the field at Exploria Stadium for the second and final time this season, Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez made sure to take one last jab at Orlando’s supporters by miming a lip-zipping motion.
He earned the right to taunt by scoring the game-winning goal in a 1-0 victory over the Lions. It was the seventh time he has scored against Orlando City to give him more goals against them than they have scored as a team against Atlanta United (6) in nine games. The taunt wasn’t as memorable as his “fathering them” quote after scoring his record-breaking 28th goal last season, or his video after Atlanta United’s win in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals earlier this month, but his message was obvious.
“For me, I enjoy scoring against all teams, but when you do it against a team whose fans are yelling stuff at you before the game, I received a lot of messages from Orlando fans,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Your play on the field is the best way to talk. When you perform against a team’s fan base like that, it makes it even better.”
The goal extended his streak of scoring in league games to 12 and was his 22nd this season, with seven MLS games remaining. He trails LAFC’s Carlos Vela by four in the race to defend his Golden Boot.
The goal wasn’t his prettiest. It was the result of a 1-2 passing sequence between him and Ezequiel Barco, who put Martinez into space about 18 yards from goal. Martinez curled a right-footed shot into the lower right corner.
But it was enough.
“His record speaks for itself, and I think when you have a player like that, you’re capable to have one quick transition because you know because you know a player like that is going to get a chance and you hope he misses,” Orlando City coach James O’Connor said.
Martinez missed two more chances. One hit the post. Another was stopped by the goalkeeper.
“Josef when he gets a chance, normally it’s 90 percent it will go in,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said.
But Martinez was the difference Friday.
“We get a moment to put them away. We did,” teammate Justin Meram said. “They had a couple and couldn’t get the job done in the box.”
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