MLS fans had a pretty good idea how explosive Josef Martinez was after he had a hat trick in just his second game with Atlanta United last March.
But few could have realistically expected just how many more three-goal games he’d accrue over the next 15 months.
In Saturday’s 3-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union, Martinez treated the home crowd at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to his fifth career hat trick, matching an MLS record held by Stern John and Diego Serna.
Even more impressive, the 25-year-old striker accomplished the feat much faster than John (55 games) or Serna (124 games), doing it in a staggeringly low total of 34 games.
"I’m happy for the goals and I’m happy to help the team," Martinez told reporters after the game through a translator. "It's time to enjoy the moment and start thinking about about our the next game."
Against the Union, Martinez drew an early penalty when Union defender Auston Trusty took him down in the box. As he waited to take the ensuing penalty kick, referee Sorin Stoica issued red cards to Alejandro Bedoya and Haris Medunjanin for dissent, only adding to the drama — and the striker's nerves.
But Martinez beat Union goalkeeper Andre Blake to give Atlanta an early 1-0 lead, and sealed the win with his second penalty kick of the game in the 83rd minute.
"I know the goalkeeper and thought he was going to wait until the last second when kicking it," Martinez said. "And Miguel told me to just hit a rocket."
In between the two PKs, he found space in the box and finished off a hard Miguel Almiron cross.
"It's a testament to his goal-scoring ability," said Atlanta defender Michael Parkhurst. "He's ruthless in front of the goal. Of course two of them were penalties today, but it's difficult to take two penalties in one game. And he's just cool and confident in there."
Martinez, the Golden Boot leader, now has 12 goals in 14 games the season after a 19-goal campaign last year.
Added Parkhurst: "He loves scoring goals, he's very good at it, and we hope he gets his sixth [hat trick] really soon."
All-Time MLS Hat Trick Leaderboard