It came in the Designated Player’s 38th league match, with his brace powering the Five Stripes past Nashville SC, 2-0, to earn a much-needed victory after their MLS is Back Tournament failure. It also occurred during interim head coach Stephen Glass’ first match at the helm, and he was thoroughly impressed.
“I think he was brilliant tonight,” Glass said afterwards of the 2018 South American Footballer of the Year. “I think the first half was a couple missing pieces that like the whole group there’s a little bit of rust, but his work rate, for me, from start to finish was unbelievable, especially [in the] second half.
“I think if he’s not working he doesn’t score that second goal. But his work rate was phenomenal off the ball, so again that might not be what he’s paid for, but he scored two great goals and worked really, really hard for the team.”
Martinez’s second strike came in the 87th minute, when he laced home a left-footed rocket to the top corner to seal all three points. He ran onto a Mo Adams layoff, leaving Nashville goalkeeper Joe Willis with no chance.
The first goal was also a thing of beauty, as Martinez collected an Eric Remedi long ball and dribbled past several defenders. He then toe-poked under Willis, showcasing the skill you’d expect of the former River Plate man.
But Martinez turned praise towards his team’s performance, rather than what he offered individually as Atlanta transitions from former head coach Frank de Boer to Glass, who's previously the head coach of USL Championship side Atlanta United 2.
“The most important thing, I think, is that the team’s doing well,” the 27-year-old said through a translator. “If I’m comfortable with my role, then I think the team as a whole can be comfortable. We just have to keep this attitude, work on these things in training and keep staying on this right path."
Martinez’s best moments came on the left flank, and he did it all with Ezequiel Barco out injured. The end result was one of Pity’s best days in an Atlanta jersey, after criticism surrounded his debut season in 2019, one that included five goals and nine assists in 32 games. Before Saturday’s win over Nashville, he had two assists in five appearances this season.
He’s also looking ahead to their next challenge, which comes Wednesday at this year’s other expansion club in Inter Miami (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, TSN2). They went 0-3 while at the Orlando-based tournament, but are 3-0 beyond the bubble.
“I said we weren’t defending the shirt well in Orlando, because that was the case,” Martinez said. “But I think today you saw a different face of the team. This is the right path that we have to stay on, this is the kind of attitude that we want to show, so we just have to keep it moving forward."