How Atlanta United president Darren Eales explained it Monday, it’s not a matter of when Josef Martinez returns from his ACL tear. Rather, the Five Stripes are focused on getting their star striker back to his true self.
“It's not about how quickly we can get him back,” Eales said on a conference call with reporters. “The important thing for him and for Atlanta United is that we get him back at 100 percent. Knowing Josef, he'll be at 110 percent.”
Those remarks come nearly two weeks after Martinez had a successful ACL operation. He suffered the injury in Atlanta’s season-opening match Feb. 29 at Nashville SC, all before the COVID-19 pandemic put the 2020 campaign on pause.
Now, Eales said Martinez is back rehabbing in Atlanta and at the team’s training ground in Marietta, Ga. While it’s a long process, Eales is confident Martinez will handle it in stride.
“For Josef now, it's a long task ahead of him, but you know what he's like,” Eales said. “He's single-minded, he's focused and he wants to get back 100 percent. That's the most important thing for us.”
Mi primer día de rehabilitación en el UPMC aquí en Pittsburgh con un grupo humano y profesional increíble. ¡Recordaré por siempre todo su apoyo! First day of rehab here at UPMC in Pittsburgh with this amazing grupo of human beings and professionals. ¡I will always remember you! Freddie Fu 👏🏽
Before the injury, Martinez was coming off a wildly-successful three-year stretch in MLS. The 2018 Landon Donovan MLS MVP recorded 77 goals and 11 assists in 84 league appearances.
Aside from Martinez, Eales offered good news on the injury front for Atlanta. He said the season suspension has allowed the likes of defenders Miles Robinson and Franco Escobar, as well as midfielder Matheus Rossetto, to heal from their injuries.
Whether it was for MLS or Concacaf Champions League games, head coach Frank de Boer was left shuffling around available players. Even at striker, they were reduced to just Adam Jahn, though did also bring in JJ Williams to bolster their options.
“When we're given the green light, when they say to go back to training, we feel pretty good that aside from Josef, of course, who has the long-term injury, the rest of the squad will be healthy,” Eales said. “That's one bright spot in terms of this delay for when we come back, that we'll have the whole squad ready to hit the ground running."