Next step for Union striker Martinez: Crack the starting XI
CHESTER, Pa. – Tied for last in the league with just eight goals scored, the Philadelphia Union are in dire need of someone who can put the ball in the back of the net.
Could Josué Martínez be the answer?
The 22-year-old Costa Rican striker has played sparingly this season (eight appearances, one start), but made a case to become a regular with a goal and assist in Tuesday’s US Open Cup third-round win over the Rochester Rhinos.
He’ll likely get more of a chance to prove his worth as the Union break from league action to play a fourth-round Open Cup match at D.C. United on June 5 followed by friendlies against Reading United (June 9) and the Harrisburg City Islanders (June 12).
“He’s a young guy still and has a ton of potential,” Union assistant coach John Hackworth said following Philly’s 3-0 victory over Rochester. “We brought him here knowing he had the ability to be the player he was tonight.”
WATCH: Martínez scores vs. Rochester
Shortly after Martínez was signed, Union sporting director Diego Gutiérrez said the former Saprissa striker had the potential to blossom into an MLS star. But with many forwards on the team, including another offseason acquisition in Lionard Pajoy, Martínez hasn’t been able to crack the starting lineup since the season opener.
In 179 total minutes of league play, he’s registered five shots – two of which were on target – but hasn’t scored. His goal in the USOC was his first as a member of the Union.
“I’m very happy, especially because of the work I put in throughout the week,” Martínez said through a translator. “Little by little, I’m getting minutes and I’m able to prove to my teammates and show them I’m able to contribute to this team.”
Martínez – who scored 19 times in three seasons with Saprissa, in addition to netting two goals with the Costa Rican national team – admitted there have been some adjustments he's had to make coming from Central America, calling it a “tough transition.”
But now that he’s beginning to settle in and, as he called it, “click better” with his teammates, Martínez certainly has a chance to earn a place in the starting lineup – and perhaps even become the dynamic goal-scorer the team desperately needs.
Could his performance in the US Open Cup help him get to that point?
“Honestly, everything helps,” he said with a smile.
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org