CHESTER, Pa. – As soon as Josué Martínez found out that he’d be making his fifth start of the season Sunday against the Houston Dynamo, he did what he always does when he feels out of his comfort zone.
He called his girlfriend back home in Costa Rica.
“Talking to family, talking to my girlfriend – that makes me feel way better,” Martínez said through a translator. “I make sure before every game to call my girlfriend so I know everything is going to be all right.”
After the performance he put on Sunday, his family has a lot to be proud about. Martínez, a 22-year-old striker, made the most of his rare start, scoring his first MLS goal to help the Union snap an eight-game winless streak and beat the Dynamo, 3-1, at PPL Park.
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The goal came in the 71st minute after Martínez got his foot on an Amobi Okugo shot going wide and tapped it in past Houston goalkeeper Tally Hall.
“It’s such a great feeling to score my first goal,” Martínez said. “I just wanted to enjoy it with the rest of the team.”
Martínez, one of three Central American imports to join the Union this past offseason, was especially excited to score after being denied by Hall on a shot from point-blank range in the 11th minute.
“As a forward, you always have to keep your head up,” he said. “You’re going to have many chances to score but you’ve got to keep working.”
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Sunday’s game marked the first time in his MLS career that Martínez got an opportunity to go a full 90 minutes. Before that, the Costa Rican had mostly been used as a late-game offensive substitute.
But with the Union struggling to score – and playing two games in four days – manager John Hackworth decided to make a few lineup changes. One of those changes was starting Martínez, the 22-year-old striker who was signed by the Union in the offseason after three impressive seasons with Costa Rican powerhouse Saprissa.
“Really what it was is that Josué, along with a lot of our young attacking players, really need opportunities,” Hackworth said. “[Josué] did a really good job of doing what he asked him to do in training and in our preparation. And that made a big difference for us [Sunday].”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.