Josef Martinez - Atlanta United - holds his knee after injury
Jason Getz-USA Today Sports Images

Josef Martinez still not 100 percent after playing through "significant tear" in knee

MARIETTA, Ga. — The last time Atlanta United fans saw Josef Martinez was not the Venezuelan striker’s finest moment. 

Martinez missed a crucial penalty en route to a 2-1 playoff loss to Toronto FC, and he was far from the menacing figure most have known throughout his career in MLS.

It wasn’t until after the match that Atlanta manager Frank de Boer revealed he was playing through an injury.

Monday was Martinez’s first time back on the field with his teammates since that fateful day. At the time, De Boer described it as a “small injury” to his quadriceps, but Martinez admitted it was bad enough that he’s still not quite 100 percent.

“I’m still recovering a little bit from the injury I was dealing with at the end of the season,” Martinez said through a translator. “A lot of people didn’t know, but I played that last game with a pretty significant tear in that last game, but I played through it. I’m doing everything I can to recover. I’m a player who really wants to maintain my health. It’s very important for me, so I’m going to do everything I can to stay healthy throughout the season.”

It’s an interesting comment from Martinez considering De Boer rarely took his goalscorer off the pitch. Martinez logged 2851 minutes in his 32 league appearances for Atlanta last season — an average of just over 89 minutes per appearance. In an era obsessed with sports science and “load management,” would Martinez ever consider taking a game to just rest his weary legs?

“That does not exist,” Martinez said, cutting off the question. “I don’t want to come out. I’ll rest when I’m home.”

Aside from that somewhat curt answer, Martinez was his normal affable self Monday, joking that he’s actually glad to be back at work after well-earned time off.

“It’s always hard to get started again, especially after a month-and-a-half of vacation,” Martinez said. “But I was bored in my house, so I was ready to get back out here.”

With Leandro Gonzalez Pirez’s recent move to Club Tijuana, Martinez and Julian Gressel are two of the few players remaining from the inaugural 2017 team, with the latter mired in a contract dispute,

Martinez kept his distance from Gressel's situation.

"I'm just worried that they pay me,” Martinez quipped. “That's all I care about."

There’s one other thing. 

Martinez, the 2018 MLS Golden Boot winner who is quick to remind anyone who will listen that his name was not engraved on the trophy, could have new competition in the 2020 race as Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez appears set to join the LA Galaxy.

Is that a concern for Josef, who lost out to another Mexican star in Carlos Vela last season?

“I think the competition I have is with Tito [Villalba] — for no one to take my spot here,” he said.