Since joining Atlanta United in the offseason, Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez hasn’t truly found his rhythm to produce the magic moments that became routine for him back in South America that earned him the continent’s prestigious Player of the Year award. But now, a few months into the season with his new side, his confidence – along with the team’s – is growing rapidly, and it was on full display Sunday when the Five Stripes earned their fifth win in six matches to take down Orlando City 1-0, courtesy of Pity’s first MLS goal.
“The goal was necessary for me for my confidence,” said Pity through a translator, “and that the team showed another mark of character that we need at the moment…I had the confidence of my teammates that it was going to come at some point, and today it came and the team can keep winning, which is the most important. Now we have to keep this up next game.”
The perfectly-placed, curling finish Sunday afternoon was not only his first goal and the eventual match-winner, but it came against the only other club in the Southeast region. And while both clubs only have a short history, Sunday’s clash was just the latest tenacious, gritty meeting in the budding rivalry between the two sides.
When it comes to rivalries, perhaps no one is more in touch with the energy, emotion and passion that come with it than Pity Martinez who became an icon among River Plate fans for his standout performances against Argentine rivals Boca Juniors.
“Rivalries are built like this, with wins and making yourself strong at home,” said Pity. “It’s important that people can take joy home with them and we have to keep writing the history of this club day after day and over time it’s going to be great.”
So with the stakes high and the pressure to perform filling the air at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it’s no surprise Pity stepped up big Sunday and looked as calm as he ever has with his new club.
As Martínez continues to integrate himself into his new city, his family recently moved to Atlanta to be with him. While that certainly offers a sense of comfort to anyone attempting to adjust to their new home, the Argentine was quick to attribute his recent rhythm to the growing chemistry inside the touch lines.
“I think it makes you calm. But this is work. This is soccer. My wife and daughter don’t play with me on the field. My teammates play with me. I feel comfortable with them and they give me their support on the field and little by little I’m adjusting to what the game is like here and I think the last two-three games have gone well and we have to keep it up.”
Since Martínez returned to the starting lineup after a minor injury suffered on international duty with Argentina, Atlanta has won four straight matches, recording four clean sheets in the process and the ex-River Plate man they call “loco” [crazy] has looked more and more threatening. And all the hard work he’s put into rehabbing and transitioning into his new league all came to fruition when he sent a first-time, pinpoint effort to the top corner to open his scoring account for the Five Stripes.
When asked about his celebration after the goal, Pity responded, “to get rid of the bad energy from not having scored in a while.”
Atlanta fans will hope that any bad energy remaining completely vanished that afternoon and that they’ll witness more magic from their number 10 come Wednesday night as they take on the Whitecaps in Vancouver, Canada. Make sure to tune into that one as the match kicks off at 10 p.m. ET on FOX Sports South. Click here for all the details on how to follow along.