MARIETTA, Ga. — Josef Martinez will have the chance to break the MLS single-season scoring record in front of his home fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday (4 pm ET | TSN2 — Full TV & streaming info).
It’s a big deal for everyone around Atlanta United — well, maybe everyone except Josef Martinez.
“I don’t care about the record,” he said through a translator on Wednesday. “I don’t care about it. I think you guys do.”
Martinez is instead more focused on helping the Five Stripes defeat Columbus Crew SC in an important Eastern Conference matchup.
“Only winning, I’m just worried about winning,” said Martinez. (Martinez said something similar last month after he broke the MLS hat-trick record, an occasion that sent the Atlanta faithful into delirium.)
Manager Tata Martino had the same sentiment before Friday’s training session.
“As a coach, these kinds of things are secondary to the main objective of winning and playing well together,” he said through a translator. “Undoubtedly, it’s very important for Josef, for his confidence. But in reality, it’s special, but it’s more important to win.”
Still, the fans would love to witness Martinez make history. He’s become a fan favorite — for his scoring, of course, but also for the way he reciprocates the fans’ affection for him.
“I think they’d really enjoy it,” said midfielder Jeff Larentowicz on Wednesday. “It’d be an exciting time. You think about all the firsts this club has had, kind of the natural firsts, this is a really unnatural one, but a special one. If he did it, it’d be memorable.”
Given his goalscoring form at home, there’s a decent chance Martinez will get the brace he needs to break the record of 27 goals in a season held by Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Fifteen of Josef’s goals have come in ATLUTD’s 13 home matches. That number alone would put him level with the second-place contenders in the Golden Boot race, Wright-Phillips and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
With all the hoopla surrounding Martinez’s pursuit of the single-season scoring milestone, it’s gone a bit under the radar that he’s also not too far off the record for consecutive-match scoring streak. He’s scored in seven straight dating back to June, which is tied for second behind the streak of nine set by Portland’s Diego Valeri last season.
When asked how he’d compare Martinez’s hot streak to others in world soccer, Martino mentioned Ignacio Scocco, an Argentine who scored five goals for River Plate last season in a single match.
Ignacio Scocco vs. Wilstermann— EiF Video (@EiF_Highlights) September 22, 2017
Age is but a number, "El Tucán" Scocco scored 5 goals and assisted 1 in a huge comeback for River Plate. pic.twitter.com/oEm4yH60zw
“Without a doubt, Josef is special,” said Martino. “He’s a special talent, he’s doing something great. As a coach, it’s great to see the form that he’s in and just helping that and just watching.”
Though there’s little doubt among his teammates, the media, or the fans that he’ll break the record – the question remains, how will he celebrate the record-breaking goal? In the past, he’s produced meme-able staredowns of the crowd and “fusions” with Miguel Almiron. Perhaps most infamously, he once nearly singed himself by jumping into a pyrotechnics display.
“They’d have to move the flamethrowers back a little bit, maybe behind the boards,” Larentowicz joked.
So has the team had developed a routine for the occasion?
“Not yet,” said Larentowicz, “but there’s still time.”