Josef Martinez …The King with 31 goals. The Hat Trick Hero.
Seeing that crushing fall he took in the game against Nashville was devastating for any Atlanta United fan. After all, it is our team’s best player. Witnessing him go down like that was hard just for fans, but for his teammates and coaching staff.
Since Martinez has been ruled out for the season and his replacement Erick “Cubo” Torres has taken his spot, it has been rough, to say the least. Let’s take a look at how valuable Martinez is to the Atlanta United.
Brute Aggression and Physicality
Even though he is just 5 feet 7 inches tall, Martinez has shown time and time again that height is not something that hinders his ability to play physically and aggressively. On the defensive end, he always leads the press and has shown tremendous ability to win the ball back against the opposition.
Against teams that are dangerous on the ball, applying pressure is needed to stop these players from unlocking the defense with a pass. It is the attacker’s job to make sure that players either make sideway passes or backward passes, and Martinez does this job well. On the attacking end, Martinez has shown great ability in hold-up play and shrugging off defenders, which allows for combination play. Martinez has shown heart and determination to be aggressive and physical – the key traits for the modern-day striker.
With his recent season performances, it is clear that he is a natural-born goal-scorer. Scoring goals is just in his blood and something that he does well. Any fan who has watched the MLS in the last two to three years knows that Martinez is dangerous in front of the goal. And if that is not enough proof, the numbers speak for itself. Nineteen goals in his first season, 31 goals in his second season, and his goal-scoring ability have set MLS records. These are some of the reasons why he has earned the title of being one of the best players in the MLS today.
Losing Martinez to an injury meant losing a player who would give the team at least 15 goals a season. Atlanta United felt his loss immensely as witnessed by their poor goal-scoring abilities during the restart.
Poise at the Penalty Line
Penalties are not a big part of the game in its entirety. However, when the team is competing in the playoffs and the games get more difficult, a penalty kick can often be the deciding factor for a win or loss
While a penalty kick can appear to be an easy goal, it can often throw a player’s ability off. There is no question that these professional players have the skill and technical ability but not every player has the cold-blooded and killer mentality that Martinez does. When a game goes down to the wire, and the spotlight is on a shootout or a penalty kick to win the game, the Venezuelan superstar shines.
While Atlanta United didn’t have to go to any shootouts during the restart, one has to wonder who would have been able to step up.
Leadership and Presence
Martinez is genuinely a technically-gifted player, but his impact goes beyond his playing abilities. Martinez has also shown tremendous leadership ability and experience throughout the years. His experience is crucial, especially if they want to be competitive. He knows what it takes to win and at what level the team needs to be at. There is no doubt that if he was on the field during the restart, he would be at the head of the pack. While he may not be as vocal, his presence is enough for the team to reach higher levels. Martinez leads by example and losing a player like that to an injury can be a huge blow to the team’s morale.
The impact Josef Martinez has on Atlanta United is evident. While one player does not define a team’s success or failure, there is no doubt that if Martinez had stayed healthy, Atlanta United could have gone far in the MLS is Back tournament.
Let’s hope that when Martinez comes back, he is100% healthy and in top form- ready to once again lead the Five Stripes to another championship.