Frank de Boer explains Pity Martinez sub: "He was making too many mistakes"

It was a tale of two halves for Atlanta United record signing Pity Martinez in Saturday’s 2-1 win at home over the Montreal Impact.

In the first half, his incisive pass and off-ball movement helped create space for Justin Meram’s scorching opener in the 35th minute. But the Argentine midfielder started to waver in the second half, and was taken off for Dion Pereira in the 68th minute with the score level.

Asked postgame about the Designated Player’s ups and downs, first-year head coach Frank de Boer was quite straightforward in his assessment. 

“In the beginning there was nothing wrong,” De Boer said. “I think he played quite well, he was setting up the first goal also coming inside, playing it to Justin, moves through, makes the space for Justin to come inside.

“I have no problem with that, but the second half, especially around the 60, 65 minutes he was making too many mistakes and then it’s a danger for the team at that moment. Then it’s my choice to make a decision.” 

The Designated Player and 2018 South American Footballer of the Year has only gone the full 90 minutes in four MLS matches since arriving from River Plate, plus has come off the substitute’s bench on four occasions. 

Back in Week 9, Pity was visibly frustrated when taken off against the Colorado Rapids. It also must be noted that he went the distance in Wednesday’s 3-2 loss at Toronto FC, scoring once on a penalty kick and missing another deep into stoppage time that would have tied the match.

“When it’s a danger for the team, I have to take any player out who is a danger for the team at that moment,” de Boer said. “He doesn’t do it on purpose, but he has to realize, ‘OK, it was short notice that we play again.’ Maybe he was tired, but he has to know where he has to make those plays. Do we have too many men in front of the ball? Then you cannot lose the ball. He has to understand that better, but I still believe in him. He has to improve there.”

As De Boer noted, Atlanta’s confidence in Pity has not disappeared. But when a healthy attack is back – the Five Stripes await Josef Martinez up top, Ezequiel Barco in midfield and Tito Villalba out wide – one has to wonder how Pity factors in.

Despite the high price tag, the Argentine has just two goals and two assists through 15 games.