Josef Martinez eyes outright goal record as teammates hail "best-ever" year

ATLANTA – Josef Martinez is never satisfied.

Even after the Atlanta United striker tied the single-season scoring record that’s stood in the MLS record books for more than two decades, he wasn't in much of a celebratory mood.

 “I tied it, but what I really want is to break it,” said Martinez through a translator following his team’s 3-1 victory against Columbus Crew SC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday. “Once I break it, then I’ll be even more happy. When I get to 28, then I’ll have something.” 

His teammates, meanwhile, were in awe of the Venezuelan striker’s record-tying performance so far this year, with captain Michael Parkhurst calling it the “best-ever” individual season in MLS.  

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“There’s no denying it,” he said. “The track record speaks for itself. It’s incredible, it really is. The fact that that record has stood for as long as it has –he’s crushing it in his first full season.”

With a cool left-footed finish past the outstretched Crew SC goalkeeper Zack Steffen, Martinez scored his 27th goal in 25 games. He now sits tied with Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski, and Bradley Wright-Phillips for most-ever goals in a single season. 

And to make the feat even more impressive, it was also his eighth straight match with a goal, one shy of the MLS record.

“He can just score in such a variety of ways,” said Parkhurst. “He’s a special player.” 

Atlanta’s Julian Gressel, who delivered his ninth assist of the season – and his eighth to Martinez alone – was just happy to be part of it. 

“That’s pretty cool, to be honest,” said Gressel. “But ultimately it’s his record, it’s nothing I want to take credit for at all. He’s done a fantastic job, and he’ll break the record sooner rather than later.”

Five Stripes manager Tata Martino thinks tying the mark will take some pressure off Martinez as the team heads into the stretch run to the playoffs.

“It’s a very important achievement for him, especially being only his second year in the league,” said Atlanta United manager Tata Martino. “I think it’s a weight off his shoulders, now that he’s tied the record, everything that comes after this is extra.” 

Martinez actually had a few decent chances to break the record tonight. He hit the crossbar with a header in the 69th minute, and in the 82nd minute, he opted against taking a chance himself to instead lay the ball on a platter for his “Fusion” partner Miguel Almiron to finish. 

Asked if he thought much about whether to take the chance himself, Martinez was honest.  

“No,” he said. “I was out of energy.”