Two things are almost certain when Atlanta United visit another stadium this season: Chances are they will get a result and Josef Martinez will score one way or another.
Atlanta United may be first in the Supporters’ Shield run but they are also the best team on the road with a 7-2-2 record. In a league where away days are historically difficult, Atlanta manages to get results despite being the team everyone wants to beat.
Jeff Larentowicz thinks that having a target on their backs can serve as an advantage when his team goes out on the road.
“I think at home it’s difficult because teams have game plans to sit and try and counter,” he said. “I think that when we go on the road teams are reluctant to sit back against us, they’re going to come out and try and play and in those moments we’ll break on them.”
Larentowicz used the example of his team’s first goal in their most recent win in Montreal against the Impact. Atlanta played quickly over a seemingly clueless Impact defence, Hector Villalba made a run for a through ball sent by Miguel Almiron. The winger located Martinez, who had laid back to avoid an offside but managed to free himself enough to net header from Villalba’s cross.
“Those are kinds of thing that don’t always happen, at least in the first half, at home but when they happen on the road we can capitalize,” explained Larentowicz.
Another part of Atlanta’s success, on the road or at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, is Josef Martinez. The Venezuelan broke the deadlock in the first half and added a second coming back from halftime which included a one-hour rain delay.
Having scored goals number 23 and 24, Martinez is now three goals away from tying the all-time goalscoring record set by Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Having also broken the league’s record for the number of hat-tricks, there’s a possibility for him to tie the record in a single game.
Regardless, Tata Martino isn’t worried that his striker will get those three goals and then some to become, statistically, the best to have ever stepped on an MLS pitch.
“It doesn’t matter if he scores them one by one or he gets a hat-trick, he’ll get the goals,” Martino said through an interpreter.
Martino admitted that at this point, he is barely even giving any directions to Martinez in order to not disturb him in his hot streak.
“No, when a goalscorer is at this stage just just let him be,” he said. “There’s nothing else to do we just pray that this lasts the entire season.”
Larentowicz remembered the last time he played with a striker a hot as Martinez was during his time with Mike Magee at the Chicago Fire. The striker had just been traded from the LA Galaxy and scored seven goal in his first seven games with his new team.
“It seemed like every time I stepped on the field the guy scored,” Larentowicz said of Magee. “I think that Josef has more goal that Mike did that whole season already so that just goes to show.
“It’s remarkable, it’s special, it’s fun to be a part of and I just hope it continues.”