After two appearances in two preseason games, Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez is showing why Atlanta United worked for more than two years to sign him.
In short stints in a 7-1 win against Seattle and 6-1 victory against Tijuana, Martinez has one goal, two assists, a few chances created, a few line-splitting passes and an ability to almost take the air out of the ball because he strikes it so hard.
“He’s adapting very well,” Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer said.
Jeff Larentowicz said that Pity Martinez is also growing more comfortable with his teammates. He likes a good joke. The two weeks that Atlanta United is spending in California is helping each player learn more about the rest of the team.
Atlanta United announced the acquisition of Martinez on Jan. 24 after he helped lead River Plate to the Copa Libertadores title in December.
Martinez was bought as a replacement for Miguel Almiron, whose expected sale to Newcastle was completed on Jan. 29.
While Larentowicz said it’s unfortunate that the two players will be compared, there are positive similarities, according to teammates: focus, good attitude, aggressiveness and an eye for a pass.
“You can see that he likes to take on someone one-on-one,” Michael Parkhurst said of Martinez, but it’s also a good description of Almiron. “As soon as he has someone beat he's looking to see who is running.”
Martinez hit a few passes in Wednesday’s scrimmage against Tijuana that were similar to those Almiron hit in compiling 28 assists the previous two seasons.
“He's going to have a lot of assists,” Parkhurst said. “He's going to have a lot of goals. He's good in front of goal. He hits the heck out of the ball as well. I think he’s going to fit in fine.”
Larentowicz said he was near Martinez on Wednesday when he hammered a volley that flew over the crossbar.
“He really kind of knocked the leather off the thing,” Larentowicz said. “He can strike the ball. Very, very confident with his left foot, that’s for sure.”
But there are also differences.
“He doesn’t have the breakaway speed, but he’s plenty fast enough to beat somebody and break away,” Parkhurst said. “We won’t rely on him as much as we did (Miguel). It’s not like we will defend with nine and let you and Josef attack. We were able to do that at times.”
The most interesting dynamic to watch with Martinez is how he connects with Josef Martinez. Almiron and Josef Martinez were a deadly combination, as Parkhurst noted. Martinez has said without Almiron, he wouldn’t have been named MVP last season.
So far, Josef Martinez said things are looking good. Pity Martinez assisted on two of Josef Martinez’s four goals on Wednesday. One came on a free kick from the corner that seemed as if it was guided to Martinez’s head.
“My relationship with Miguel was different,” Josef Martinez said. “He wasn’t just my teammate. He was like a brother. With Pity, all I have to do is make the right movements and he will find me.”
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