October 30, 2019 Atlanta - Atlanta United midfielder Gonzalo Martinez (10) assists a pass to Atlanta United defender Julian Gressel (24) to score a goal in the first half during the Eastern Conference Final soccer match at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday, October 30, 2019. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Pity Martinez expects better start with Atlanta United

Atlanta United’s Pity Martinez acknowledged Friday that he may have felt pressure at the start of last season, but he thinks he improved as the season continued.

If he can keep building this season, and Atlanta United plays well, he said he hopes it will lead to more appearances with Argentina’s national team and a path to a club in Europe.

“I think last year we had a really good end to the season and made it to the conference final,” he said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to take that next step to the final. The goals for this year are the same. I think Atlanta is up for getting that far again. That’s our goal.  I want to keep building on everything I’ve done and try to help this team.”

Martinez, 26, was a reason for last year’s success. He helped the club defeat Club America to win the Campeones Cup and Minnesota to win the U.S. Open Cup in August. 

Martinez played well, showing a tenacity on defense that wasn’t consistently there at the beginning of the season and a patience on offense that also wasn’t there at the beginning of the season when he would often attempt long-range, low-percentage shots rather than keep possession.

“I think there was a lot of pressure at the beginning of the year, but over the course of the year I started feeling better and getting along better with my teammates,” he said. “I felt that at the end of the season.” 

That pressure was natural.

Martinez signed with Atlanta United after he helped River Plate win the Copa Libertadores, a victory that resulted in him being named the South American Player of the Year.

In addition to living up to that plaudit, he was stepping into a Miguel Almiron-sized hole in Atlanta United’s formation.

Martinez isn’t Almiron, who was sold to Newcastle on Jan. 29, shortly after Martinez was signed.

They are two very different players with very different personalities.

With Atlanta United, Almiron was about effort all the time, done while smiling most of the time.

Martinez is more efficient on the field and not as expressive as Almiron.

One set of characteristics is not better than the other. They are just different.

After not scoring his first goal until May 12 and not recording his first assist until May 24, Martinez finished with five goals and nine assists in league play, with two of the goals and two of the assists in September.

“I think if I start off the year the way I ended it, then things will come a lot easier and help me with those goals,” he said.

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