From the first minute that new Atlanta United signing Pity Martinez set foot in Atlanta, before he ever met his teammates or saw Mercedes-Benz Stadium, he’s been blown away. That started before dawn on a holiday weekend, where dozens of fans were lined up outside international customs for his unannounced arrival.
“I was very surprised,” he said through a translator Friday. “I think we landed around 5 a.m. so I wasn’t expecting people to be there, but it was a very nice welcome that the fans were there. Seeing that support gives you the strength to really want to start the season.”
That excitement to start the season was the theme during his first meeting with Atlanta media on Friday. As a small crowd of local and international media packed into the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground. And that anticipation was shared by Atlanta United Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra.
“We’re very happy to have Pity arrive,” he said, to kick off the press conference. “He’s a player who had to deal with the pressure of wearing the #10 and playing for River Plate over 150 times. He’s a player that has quality to change the game with a goal or to give the final pass. We’re really looking forward to getting him started and integrated with the team.”
Pity’s achievements are well known: the South American Player of the Year and reigning Copa Libertadores champion, Martinez had plenty of options this offseason. But he said the ambition of Atlanta United caught his eye immediately.
“I’m someone who likes a challenge,” he said, “and I know Atlanta is a club that is winning titles and I’m someone who likes to compete for titles. My goal is to just get up to speed with the group as fast as I can so I can help them accomplish all our goals.”
“For me it was an easy decision,” he continued. “I had meetings with Carlos and Darren and they told me everything about the club, that it’s a very serious club and that’s what inspired me. I think the league has grown a lot. It’s very competitive –– that’s why you see players who are talented enough to go to Europe are choosing to come here because they want to be here. So I want to help the league and help Atlanta United and it’s a privilege to come to both.”
Bocanegra talked about Pity’s qualities on the field: his electric skill on the ball and his ability to dominate the game in midfield. But he says what stood out to them most was everything he brings off the field.
“He has a quiet confidence,” he said, “he has a presence about him and he has a really good mentality. It’s a long hard season down there in Argentina and playing with the national team, Copa Libertadores, the league –– the mental strength he possesses is something that shouldn’t go unnoticed.”
That mental strength is key for Bocanegra, who pointed out that playing for Atlanta United isn’t like playing for other clubs in the U.S. It presents a specific challenge that they have to look out for in potential players.
“You go watch a game at River Plate and the intensity and the pressure and what the fans demand every game from these guys for the players to perform on the field. That’s not lost on us because we play in front of 70,000 people here. You have to have that character to go out and perform. That’s a big factor in players coming to Atlanta. We have to take into account that they can go out and perform on the big stage.”
Martinez is excited to take that stage, but he’s still taking the time to focus on the fundamentals first: integrating himself with the team and learning from his coaching staff.
“I’m someone who has clear objectives,” he said. “My goal is to first get adapted to the team and league as fast as I can, to become part of the group. I know they’re coming off a very successful year in MLS, and I am as well with the year we had in Argentina where we were able to win a title. So I have clear object: first I want to get involved in the group then focus on the things that are important to us this year: the league and Concacaf Champions League.”