ATLANTA – Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips should take a moment to relish their joint possession of the single-season MLS goalscoring mark. Because with the run of form Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez is on, it seems only a matter of time until he shatters the record.
The Venezuelan striker notched a brace — the fifth of his MLS career, to go along with his record six hat tricks — in Atlanta’s 2-2 draw against Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. His two goals on Saturday were his 25th and 26th goals of the season, putting him in fourth place on the all-time single-season scoring chart along with Stern John and Mamadou Diallo.
“If he can stay healthy and stay on the field, then there’s no doubt he’s going to break the record and hopefully score more than that,” said Five Stripes captain Michael Parkhurst after the match.
“Obviously, we all just hope that he continues his torrid form. He is unbelievable in front of the goal. I hope he doesn’t stop. I hope he keeps going. Hopefully, we can keep giving him good opportunities to score goals, and he can keep putting them in the net for us.”
Martinez is indeed in rare form, even for him, having scored in seven straight matches going back to June. During that stretch, he’s scored 12 times.
“What’s he had, about two a game the past two games? How many games do we have left? Yeah, that’s 20 more goals,” said teammate Jeff Larentowicz, making an only slightly tongue-in-cheek prediction about how Martinez will close out the season.
“It’s astounding, honestly,” he added. “It’s really special to see it every week. I think that he can keep going over 30. Then you just hope he remains hot. He’s kind of like a pitcher. You just leave him alone in the dugout.”
Only needing one more goal to tie the scoring record is probably a prime reason Martinez looked visibly upset when coming out of the game in the 79th minute – though he would be the first to admit he never likes to be subbed before the final whistle.
Atlanta manager Tata Martino said the change was precautionary following Martinez’s appearance in the midweek 2018 MLS All-Star Game presented by Target.
“I thought he was very tired,” Martino said. “I saw him hunched over touching his legs, touching an area where he had an injury last year. I just thought that it was best that he was off the field and he had played enough.”
When was asked if he might start to rest Martinez, at least if the striker secures the record and the team secures its position atop the Eastern Conference, Martino was incredulous.
“Descanso?” he responded before quickly shaking his head no and revealing, in English, the date he’d finally give Martinez a rest: “December 10.”
That’s the Monday after the MLS Cup final.