CHESTER, Pa.—With Saturday’s game scoreless in the second half and the Philadelphia Union threatening to earn a result against arguably the league’s top team, Atlanta United needed a goal in a big way.
It was no surprise that Josef Martinez was the one to bag it.
A little more than a month after tying an MLS record with his fifth hat trick against Philly, the Venezuelan striker again sunk the Union with a penalty kick goal to lift Atlanta to a 2-0 win at Talen Energy Stadium.
It was his third goal from the spot in Atlanta’s last two meetings with Philly, and his 18th of the season, putting him on pace to record more than 30 goals on the year.
Josef Martinez of @ATLUTD scored his 18th goal, in his 20th appearance.— MLS Communications (@MLS_PR) July 8, 2018
Just 3 times in #MLS history a player scored 18 or more goals in their first 20 games -- Martinez twice.
Josef Martinez, 19 G, 20 GP, 2017
Landon Donovan, 19 G, 20 GP, 2008
Josef Martinez, 18 G, 20 GP, 2018
“Yeah,” said teammate Julian Gressel, succinctly. “He’s going to break it.”
Others on Atlanta weren’t quite as bold in their declaration. But it’s clear that with 14 games still left in the season, Martinez is in very good position to have his name permanently etched into MLS lore.
“I hope so,” defender Michael Parkhurst said of the record. “You never know; it’s a long season. But I hope he keeps getting opportunities. I think if he stays healthy, he’s going to have the opportunities the way that we play. He’s a goalscorer through and through. He’s so good in front of net.”
When asked about the scoring mark, Gerardo “Tata” Martino inquired about the record, before nodding and appearing to do some quick math in his head after learning it was 27. But then Atlanta’s head coach talked more about how lethal Martinez’s game can be in other aspects, as his brilliant secondary assist in the 76th minute showed.
“I’m really happy with how Josef is playing, but especially how he’s participating even more in recent games,” Martino said through a translator. “Now he’s providing assists to his teammates. … Even if we don’t score, he’s playing guys in and trying to connect with his teammates. So we know he’s a great player, but now that [he’s] added that other skill to his game, it’s going to make our team even better.”
Martinez, who has two assists in the last three games, said that being a provider is something he’s “always done, but it’s possible you’re just seeing it more this season.” He also noted that partnering well with the rest of Atlanta’s dynamic front four, while continuing to pile up the wins is more important than any personal accolades.
“I don’t know,” Martinez said when asked about setting the MLS single-season scoring record. “I hope so. But the most important thing is always to help the team win.”