Josef Martinez is officially on fire. Less than a week ago, he pulled off a hat trick in a 6-1 defeat of Minnesota United. And then, Saturday night, Martinez followed it up with a brace vs. the Chicago Fire, making for a 4-0 Atlanta win in front of a sold-out crowd at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
With five goals in three games, Martinez tied for an MLS record previously set by Carlos "Pescadito" Ruiz in 2002. He's also currently leading the race for the Golden Boot, and showing no signs of cooling off anytime soon.
“I came here to give everything I have to this shirt," he said after the match, "and I’m happy to score for the team."
His first goal came in the 60th minute and killed off the game. Miguel Almiron sliced the Chicago defense open with a through ball to Martinez, who then calmly dribbled around Fire goalkeeper Jorge Bava and side-footed the ball into the net. Yamil Asad then assisted on Martinez’s second goal in the 82nd minute, when the latter again easily around Bava before slotting the ball home.
But despite another red-hot individual display, Martinez was quick to give credit to pretty much everyone but himself.
“I’m just thankful for the team, for my teammates for providing the assists, for the coaching staff, for the fans for being behind me,” he said. “Hopefully this streak doesn’t end here.”
But the Venezuelan international's teammates heaped the praise right back. Midfielder Julian Gressel called Martinez “probably the best forward in this league,” while goalkeeper Alec Kann described him as a “handful.”
“It’s been a great start for him and he fits the system really well,” said Atlanta United caption Michael Parkhurst. “He’s very, very quick, makes good runs, and guys are looking for him in behind the line.”
Manager Gerardo “Tata” Martino put it more succinctly at the post-game press conference. “It’s evident to us that Josef is a great goal-scorer,” he said.
With a record set for his club, Martinez will soon head out on international break for his country, representing Venezuela in their upcoming CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers against Peru and Chile. When he returns, he hopes to keep his hot streak alive by training well and sticking with what’s worked for him so far.
“You don’t change anything," Martinez said, "when you're playing well."