Josef Martinez - Atlanta United - takes a penalty in the Eastern Conference final
Dale Zanine-USA Today Sports Images

MLS Cup Playoffs: Josef Martinez's saved penalty looms large in Atlanta defeat

Quentin Westberg did something no man had done yet in Major League Soccer on Wednesday night: Saved a Josef Martinez penalty. 

In the 11th minute Eastern Conference Final, with Toronto FC trailing Atlanta United 1-0, Westberg came up huge to deny Martinez and keep TFC within striking distance. A few minutes later, Toronto equalized, and in the second half they found an unlikely winner. They went from staring down the barrel of being 2-0 down on the road to clinching a third MLS Cup appearance in four years, and it all started with Westberg's penalty save:

It ended up being a crucial miss, and it later came out that Martinez played the game with an injured hamstring:

It wasn't the first time Martinez had failed to score from the penalty spot in his MLS career, but it was the first time he had one saved in league play (including playoffs). He had twice missed the goal, but had a tremendous 16 for 18 conversion rate heading into his chance against Westberg. He did, however, have one saved  in Atlanta's Campeones Cup win over Club América earlier this year.

Interestingly enough, all three of Josef's prior penalty misses came when he included his signature hop in the run-up to his attempt, but that changed on Wednesday when he did not hop before Westberg made the save.

Series: 

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