Josef Martinez is never shy to fire off a joke at the expense of rival Orlando City.
The Atlanta United star has been playful on social media on more than a few occasions when asked about his Southern foes. One time he gargled an evil laugh accompanied by "Orlandoooooo" after Atlanta triumphed over the Lions in the US Open Cup. As recently as last month he joked —on the official ATL UTD Twitter account as part of a fan Q&A, fittingly with a mischievous smile as he swayed back and forth in a rocking chair — that Orlando "are my kids".
OCSC star Nani has a theory as to why Josef is so quick with the laughs.
“I didn’t see (the trolling), but I can tell when he says that because he loves Orlando City," Nani told MLSsoccer.com last week. "He likes Orlando. That’s why he makes so many jokes."
The rivalry has been one-way traffic, though, as Martinez continues to back up his words with big performances in the fixture. He broke the then MLS single-season goal record with his 28th goal of the 2018 season with this winner at Exploria Stadium then, a year later, Martinez extended an MLS-record of goals in 12 consecutive appearances with the lone goal in an Atlanta road win over Orlando.
Martinez and Atlanta have never lost to Orlando yet over three seasons and nine matches across all competitions.
“Hah — I want to beat everyone, but I want to beat them so bad," Nani said. "I don’t know how much, if there is a number — but I want to win this game.”
After just one year in MLS, Nani did quite enjoy the rivalry with Atlanta.
“It’s nice to have a team like Atlanta with so many great players, we can have a battle in front of good fans for the result," Nani said. "The way our fans look forward to this game is amazing. There’s so much excitement around this game to make us want to win this game so badly. We know this rivalry is very healthy for both clubs and the league as well.”
It's another fresh start for Orlando this year, as Oscar Pareja took over as head coach this winter with a number of key new signings. They picked up a point after their first two games, both without Nani, who was suspended, as the club look to make the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs for the first time in their existence.
“We’re very positive that the good days are coming soon," Nani said. "We can already tell, we’re feeling the good vibes."