ATLANTA, Ga. - Josef Martínez is a man on fire.
After a slow opening for Atlanta United on Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the Venezuelan star Martínez yet again put ATL on the board with the first of four goals in a 4-0 victory over the LA Galaxy.
It was his eighth goal since Atlanta finally set foot on the playing surface at "The Benz" -- pulling him within a goal of MLS Golden Boot leader David Villa. And this is not his first rodeo on turf. Martínez's first European club was BSC Young Boys, one of the only European clubs that plays on an artificial surface.
“That could be the answer, but it’s also been a while since he played at Young Boys,” said head coach Gerardo "Tata" Martino. “Sometimes in football things happen that you can’t really explain, and that’s just the way the game is.”
What can be explained is Martínez’s impact on Atlanta's attack, which has quickly vaulted the club into one of the league's elite offenses.
“Josef, Tito, Miguel – they’re all dangerous players for us that open up the space,” said midfielder Yamil Asad, who scored -- and assisted -- twice. “Me or anyone of us try to take advantage of [Martínez’s movement].”
It felt like déjà vu for ATL UTD, who once again held a four-goal lead and a man advantage for the second time in a week.
“With a quick start, a red card, [Video Review], a 4-nil at half, it did [feel familiar], but as you can see, LA is extremely dangerous. The first 15-to-20 minutes we were on our heels, and their attacking players are very, very dangerous,” said veteran midfielder Jeff Larentowicz. “To take the sting out of the game was good because we knew coming into the game it was going to be difficult.”
The way Atlanta ended the game might have been just as important, as the Five Stripes were able to save their legs during a busy period of the season.
“The energy has been really good,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “It helps when you’re able to win games the way we have been. Mentally, it keeps guys going. But we know the job’s not done yet, so we need to continue to keep focused, keep working hard and picking up points.”