Atlanta United have found themselves with an attacker that the league has never seen before, and perhaps will never see again in Josef Martinez. The Venezuelan forward is tearing MLS defenses apart with 16 goals this season. This number might not seem too impressive when compared with the 19 goals scored by NYC FC’s David Villa or the 18 put up by Portland’s Diego Valeri, but Martinez’s attack is as dangerous, if not more dangerous than anyone the league has ever seen. The Venezuelan has managed to put up these incredible numbers in only 14 games played due to injuries and international duty.
The attacker came to Atlanta United after being acquired on loan from Italian club Torino FC on February 2, 2017. This deal between the Five Stripes and Torino includes a club option to purchase if United’s coaching staff and front office choose to do so. And, why wouldn’t they? The Venezuelan’s back-to-back hat-trick is only a small dose of what Martinez has been able to do to the MLS in only the forward’s first season. The young Designated Player is averaging a goal around every 64 minutes for the expansion side. That’s equivalent to approximately 1.39 goals a game for the Five Stipes. MLS’s Matt Doyle reports that only two players have averaged one goal per-game. Stern John with 1.08 and Wolde Harris averaging 1.03 goals per 90 minutes. This incredible goal-scoring has helped Atlanta United find the back of the net 57 times who currently sit second in the MLS in goals scored, this number only falls behind first place Toronto FC with 63 goals scored for the Canadian club. Martinez has surely played a massive role in giving the club a historic season as the Five Stripes look to secure a playoff spot in its inaugural season. A playoff spot for the Five Stripes is not the only history that Atlanta United and Josef Martinez are making in the 2017 campaign. The forward became just the third ever player in MLS to record back-to-back hat-tricks from a 7-0 rout against New England and a 3-3 draw against rivals Orlando City, his latest hat-trick coming in front of a record crowd of 70,425 in the newly completed Mercedes Benz Stadium.
Before the 2017 campaign began Martinez was picked to win the Golden Boot by mlssoccer.com reporter Andrew Wiebe. While the prediction might have seemed far-fetched for a first-year player to lead the league in scoring, Wiebe might just have struck gold as Martinez still finds himself in the race for the Golden Boot, even after missing considerable time due to international duty and injuries. The award is still very much in the young Venezuelan’s eyes, as Martinez has more games left than any other player in contention, this due to the delay in the opening of Atlanta United’s Mercedes Benz Stadium. Martinez’s historic season might see him winning an award that at one point seemed impossible due to missing three months of MLS action. Regardless if Martinez could accomplish the feat, this season has shown that the young Designated Player is one of the most dangerous attackers the MLS could ever see.