ATLANTA – Josef Martinez doesn’t do anything half speed.
In Wednesday night’s MLS-All Star Game presented by Target, no one would have blamed him for throttling down his typical aggressive mindset to ensure he was fit and prepared for a difficult opponent in Toronto FC on Saturday (4 pm ET | ESPN - full TV & streaming info). But “half speed” is not a part of Martinez’s vocabulary.
The Venezuelan’s torrid scoring pace has vaulted to another level this season, having scored 24 goals by the end of July and running his current streak to six games in the league. His 26th-minute equalizer against Juventus Wednesday night helped him earn the game’s MVP award, potentially only the first of many trophies Martinez will collect this season.
The goal was quintessential Martinez, putting his body on the line and physically challenging opposing defenders to practically fight the ball into the back of the net. But as much as the goal represented the kind of striker he is– a poacher who uses speed and cunning to get into quality scoring positions – it also represents a general aggressive mentality that has put him in a position to crush the MLS single-season goal-scoring record.
But he says he prefers not to think about the future.
“This is my only good season!” Martinez joked briefly before continuing, “I don’t think about the record because it adds pressure. I just look forward to continue to feel good, play well and to score because it is my obligation.”
Josef’s scoring run this season is all the more impressive when considering that the Venezuelan striker is still learning the intricacies of played as a center forward. Believe it or not, it’s a position that was relatively new to Martinez before hooking up with manager Tata Martino in Atlanta. Josef has explained that in the past, he’s played with with more experienced No. 9’s in Salomon Rondon with Venezuela and Andrea Belotti at Torino.
““I think what happened on the other teams I’ve played with is that there was always another center forward, or someone who was bigger than me,” Martinez said, as reported by SB Nation’s Dirty South Soccer. “Here, I’m learning a lot in the new position. You’re always learning new things. I’m learning how to use my body.”
His goal Wednesday against Juventus – his first goal scored against “The Old Lady” despite having played against them previously with Torino – was perhaps least surprising to his Martino, who has seen his lead striker go from strength to strength during this likely record-breaking season.
“Everytime Josef scores, it makes me happy,” Martino said after Wednesday’s game. “Hopefully he can score for us on the weekend as well.”
Who would bet against him?