To go unbeaten at home for nine straight matches takes a team effort – and 70,000 of the Atlanta faithful behind them doesn’t hurt either. But it’s impossible to ignore the form of Josef Martinez, who became the third player in MLS history to score back-to-back hat tricks with his three-goal performance on Wednesday and Saturday.
“Josef is really important for our team,” midfielder Miguel Almirón told reporters after the game against Orlando. “He’s our goal scorer and for me, he’s the best forward in the league.”
But it goes beyond the past two games. Despite Martinez playing about half the total minutes this season as current scoring leader David Villa, Josef sits just three goals back in the Golden Boot race with two games in hand.
“He proves his quality week in and week out,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “We see it in training so we know he has that ability. He has that skill (and) to have it come off on a matchday is huge.”
But even looking at this season doesn’t do Atlanta’s red-hot striker justice. According to MLSSoccer.com’s Matt Doyle, only two players in league history have scored more than a goal every 90 minutes over an entire season: Wolde Harris (1.03 goals per 90’) and Stern John (1.08 goals per 90’) – about a goal every 83 minutes – back in 1998. Martinez is scoring 1.39 goals per 90 minutes, or a goal every 65 minutes. He’s not only on course to beat that record, he’s on pace to shatter it.
“He’s a game changer,” captain Michael Parkhurst said. “He’s invaluable for us. Obviously, he’s a handful to defend against, he’s just too quick. He’s always in the right spot in front of the goal. He’s lethal and he loves to score goals. He gets disappointed when he doesn’t. He’s an extremely important part of this team, and we’re thankful he’s on top of his game right now.”
Of course, in the end this is a team game and the final result is what matters most. While earning seven points in a tough stretch of three games in six day sets the team up well, the players were disappointed they couldn’t make it three wins out of three.
“To come back three times is probably a point in the end for us,” said defender Chris McCann. “We pushed all the way. It probably wasn’t our best football but we still managed to get a point and we’re still unbeaten. We’re still in the mix.”
But there’s no time to rest. Atlanta United is fully focused on their next matchup, with the L.A. Galaxy coming to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday.
“We’re good,” Almirón said. “The group is really united. That’s really important with these games to come and we were able to come back a few times tonight.”
Atlanta United will try to continue their march up the Eastern Conference Standings Wednesday, with a chance to push up into 4th place with a win against the L.A. Galaxy. Tickets are still available, make sure you’re there to cheer on the red, black and gold by getting your tickets here.