ATLANTA — With a brace against New York City FC Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 win that kept Atlanta United’s second-half-of-the-season ascendency in tact, Josef Martinez captured a league record by scoring in his tenth consecutive MLS match.
Martinez already tied the record last year — previously held by Diego Valeri — but was thwarted from claiming the record for himself. He didn’t let that happen this time, and his two goals against Dome Torrent’s squad also made Josef MLS’s all-time leading scorer over a three-season span.
Ask around the Atlanta United dressing room, and you quickly realize that the goals are merely the symptom of Martinez’s greatness.
“The thing about Joe is he's a fighter, He's a competitor,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the locker room after Sunday’s game. “When you cross the white lines, you want him on your team. He's a warrior out there.”
Five Stripes head coach Frank de Boer admitted that Martinez’s status was in doubt coming into the match after he missed a crucial U.S. Open Cup semifinal on the road against rivals Orlando City on Tuesday. But against a team that De Boer says is one of the best in the league — and a club contending with Atlanta for the top spot in the Eastern Conference — the coaching staff and the club’s medical department decided Saturday that the Venezuelan was fit enough to play.
“He brings some kind of energy. He demands from other players that they have to give the best out of themselves. He pushes them to the limit,” De Boer told media in his postmatch press conference. “That's fantastic to see. He pushes himself to the limit to score goals and is always eager to be there in front of the goal and score goals from his teammates. Sometimes he's angry about it when it's not going his way, but he keeps everybody awake.”
Those goals just keep amassing for Martinez. His two against NYCFC brings his total MLS account up to 70, and he’s racked up that total in just 76 appearances (73 starts). The brace means Josef is now averaging just better than one goal per 90 minutes—the best mark among any MLS player in history.
“He's surprised me, but he's our goalscorer,” said Pity Martinez after the match when asked about his impression of playing alongside Josef since joining Atlanta United. “We want to keep helping him and getting him goals. Today he scored two, but I think he could've had a couple more. He's a great striker and he's up there fighting at the top of the golden boot race.”
Indeed, by the end of Atlanta’s game Sunday, Martinez trailed Carlos Vela by only two goals in the Golden Boot race — one that was widely considered to be done and dusted by the midway point of the season.
No one in Atlanta is betting against him.