Reigning MLS Cup Champions Atlanta United have just signed Argentine phenom Gonzalo "Pity" Martínez. But what exactly will the 2018 South American Player of the Year bring to the pitch at Mercedes-Benz Stadium? We sat down with Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra for an exclusive Q&A on the new Atlanta star:
When did Pity first come on the club’s radar?
A couple years ago when we were down in Argentina watching some different games, we had heard about him that he was one of the top players coming through down there. So actually, we hopped out of a car on the side of the freeway and jumped over a barrier on the way back from a different game to go watch him at River’s stadium, it was crazy.
We then followed him from afar. When we went back down to Argentina various times we would watch him play. We watched him train in Orlando when he was up here for the Florida Cup with River Plate last year so it’s a long time following this kid, and now here we are.
What was your first interaction with Pity?
We didn’t meet him until not too long ago when we were planning on bringing him on and completing the signing with him. But I remember watching him train – his first touch, his attention to detail, the quality he had in training, his enjoyment and excitement, how he went about his business – that was really nice to see because that was a preseason thing for them. He very easily could’ve taken it easy and not had the concentration, but on the field you saw how much he enjoyed it and how much attention to detail he gave his training session. I thought that was really interesting to see, apart from the games when you watch him on video or you watch him in person.
What would you say are his top strengths as a player?
He’s got fantastic control and technique with the ball. I like that he can be goal-dangerous but he can also give the final pass. He can beat a player but he can also drag players out of space for his teammates as well. He has the quality to be a playmaker and play underneath the forwards, but he also has the quality to play out wide and cut inside. He’s a complete player. He just won the South American Player of the Year which is an unbelievable honor to achieve down there with all that competition.
The thing that stood out to me the most was his soccer IQ, he’s such an intelligent player and so aware of spaces, players, runs; the speed of thought he has that you can see on the field, that was one of the things that impressed me the most out of his whole game.
How do you see Pity fitting into the fluid, attacking style of play that Atlanta United has established?
Another guy that fits our profile of player: he’s good on the ball, fit, mobile, and technical. He’ll get around the pitch, bring people into the game, can beat opponents one-on-one, make people miss and he combines really well. We like to dominate possession, we like to have an attacking style of play, commit numbers forward and he’ll fit in well because he brings quality into the attack and he’s another weapon we have up top.
He has the quality and attitude on the field, how would you describe his demeanor off the field?
The interactions that we had with him down in Argentina and just speaking to him on the phone, he’s a grownup. He’s a mature, young guy, you can tell he loves his football, but he has a presence about him, he leads by example – a quiet confidence.