ATLANTA, Ga. — For the second consecutive match, Atlanta United manager Frank de Boer elected to use the club’s high-profile offseason signing Pity Martinez off the bench in a critical game against Eastern Conference rivals D.C. United.
“He has to make my life as hard as possible,” De Boer said after Atlanta’s 2-0 win. “Right now, he’s doing that.”
MartInez and De Boer have had their difference’s this season, which came to a head in a recent appearance on FOX Sports Radio in Argentina in which he criticized the manager’s words and tactics. Martinez later cleared the air, saying the two have a good relationship.
On Sunday, the coach was talking about his No. 10’s performance on the field that sealed a crucial win for Atlanta.
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“The only reaction he can give me is this,” said De Boer. “I asked him to be in the box, and he was in the box when the cross came. This is what you want when you play behind the striker.”
Pity entered after 65 minutes and went on to score the winner for the Five Stripes — and assisted Josef Martinez’s cherry on top. The goal was far from one of his trademark wonderstrikes from the edge of the box. Instead, Pity put his body on the line in the box to get to the ball first ahead of D.C. defenders and goalkeeper Bill Hamid.
Martinez recognizes that the goal was not the prettiest he’s scored, but that’s fine by him if it helps Atlanta move back up the Eastern Conference standing after a dip in form in recent weeks.
“I think today it was a very important goal for the team. Ugly or beautiful, it still counts,” said Martinez. “It's a very important win. This is what we're fighting for, so this was a good step.”
When questioned why Pity Martinez was not selected to the manager’s starting XI, De Boer simply said that his replacement, Brandon Vazquez, played too well in the team’s last match — a 5-0 win over the Houston Dynamo — and that he saw no reason to make a change.
“This is the reaction that you want from someone who always plays. [Pity Martinez] was aggressive, he was sharp, and fantastic what he showed today,” said De Boer. “I have to make the decisions, and I only choose for the team what gives the most possibility to win. Maybe the next game it's with him or without him, but I saw a fantastic Pity today and that gives him a lot of confidence, but also his teammates and the club and me also.”
Pity spoke calmly in the locker room to reporters after the game, admitted that while he may not be showing his best performances yet, he’ll continue to try to force his way into Frank de Boer’s team for another big match on the horizon against LAFC.
“I don't know if I've started yet, but it feels like I'm on the right path. We just have to keep working to get to the level we want to be at,” said Martinez. “I want to play every game. That's what I train for. I'm training my best to show the coach what I can do.”