Josef Martinez is the fastest player in MLS history to reach 100 goals across all competitions. Roy Lassiter did it in 167 games. Robbie Keane did in 156 games. It took Josef just 125 games.
I took a look at all 100 and tried to pick the best of the best for you to sit back and enjoy. A nice, brief top five. I quickly realized that you needed – no, deserved – more Josef goals. So here’s a Best XI.
You may be thinking, 'Wow that’s really lazy to just grab more than 1/10th of his goals and call it a day.' But I took it on myself to rank them. And, dear reader, it was not fun. I’ll probably change this list 30 times by tomorrow. I may have it figured out in time for the “Ranking the best of Josef’s 200 goals” article, though.
Also: These 11 are so good that I didn't even include a goal that got voted AT&T Goal of the Year in 2019. So take that.
It may not look like much compared to some of the others here, but you have to keep in mind that this Josef goal gave Atlanta United a 4-3 win after being down 4-1. That’s not a typo. Atlanta went down 4-1 in this game before Video Review took away a San Jose goal to go back and award an Atlanta penalty. In a game as wild as this, you just kind of knew it had to be Josef to cap it off. That’s not to discredit the run he makes off the defender’s back shoulder, though. Or that excellent finish.
When this one happened, I swear it seemed like he had scored from the ad boards. That’s how a lot of people remember it, too. Watching it now, it may have gotten a tiny bit exaggerated. Even still, this is a ridiculous angle to finish from. And, in Atlanta United’s first-ever home win, it let fans know they had a striker who could do the near impossible.
This one holds a special place in Atlanta United’s lore and Josef’s.
The collected finish is excellent. Especially the part where he sends a defender to the floor. But this one stands out for the celebration that almost kept us from ever seeing any of these other goals.
After scoring, Josef – in an attempt to maybe get closer to the fans? Look a little cooler? Who knows – jumped on the pyrotechnic box behind the goal and nearly became the first athlete barbequed on live television. A near-disaster and one of the most palm sweat-inducing moments in MLS history that turned into one of the most iconic images of Josef in Atlanta.
Josef makes a perfectly-timed diagonal run here, Julian Gressel finds him with a perfect pass (common theme here) and Josef snaps the ball into the top corner and well past Steve Clark in no man’s land. It happened so quickly. And so ruthlessly. Sometimes all you can do is sit back, watch and accept that there’s not much you can do. There’s peace in that.
If I’m reading lips right, Clark offers a “what the [redacted] do you do” and quickly moves on with his life.
I distinctly remember my train of thought here was “Well, looks like there are three defenders cutting him off from moving inside, guess he’ll have to hold up and wait for a teammate to get theOHMYGOODNESSISTHATLEGAL.”
I feel like “peak Josef” is going to get thrown around here a few times, but the goals where he wills the ball into the net from impossible angles are the ones I think of most when I think about what makes him special. This isn’t the most impossible angle on this list. But it might be the hardest hit shot. And it set the tone for Atlanta to go on a 7-0 romp over New England.
Julian Gressel goes over the top. Josef beats two guys then blasts the ball home to send Atlanta to the 2019 Eastern Conference Final. It almost looks too easy. It mostly was for Josef in the second half of 2019. He set an MLS record that year by scoring in 15 consecutive games and nearly dragged Atlanta to a second straight MLS Cup appearance.
If you haven’t noticed yet, it’s a pretty common theme in these to see Julian Gressel involved in some way. By the end of Gressel’s time in Atlanta, he and Josef had developed a preternatural connection that resulted in a stunning goal after stunning goal. The best of these is this incredible combination that features what might be the best ball of Gressel’s career and the best headed finish of Josef’s.
It’s a good goal. Not his best. But certainly one of the most meaningful. After missing the entirety of the 2020 season with an ACL tear and experiencing serious complications from the resulting surgery that nearly forced him to retire, Josef picked up his first goal since his injury. He celebrated by running directly to the team’s trainers. It’s perhaps the most emotional goal of his career.
Why are you reading this description instead of just watching that over and over again?
It had to be him.
The bodies on the floor. The personal rivalry with Orlando. The Bendik face. The look back. The new owner of the MLS record for goals in a season.
This is peak Josef.
There’s a reason there are adaptations faithful to the source material being made to this day.