Josef Martinez is owning MLS at the moment. He leads the league in scoring with a whopping 24 goals with 11 matches remaining in Atlanta United’s schedule. So the fact that he scored a goal in the All Star Game while picking up the MVP award against one of Europe’s most storied clubs wasn’t all that shocking.
“It didn’t surprise me really,” said MLS All-Star goalkeeper and Martinez’s Atlanta United teammate Brad Guzan. “We all figured he probably would at some point. And so it was good for him to get his goal. We talk about it all the time in terms of his ability and want and desire to score goals and what it means to him and how hungry he is to score goals. So when he’s in there, it doesn’t surprise me that he’s willing to put his body and head on the line if it means he can score.”
Seeing Martinez score goals is simply routine at this point. His 24 goals this season have him on pace to shatter the MLS record for most goals in a single season. Three players have scored 27 times over the 34 game campaign, with Bradley Wright-Phillips doing so most recently in 2014. It’s not a forgone conclusion that Martinez will break the record, but with 11 games left and him only needing four goals to set a new mark, only an unfortunate injury would keep him from making history,
“I don’t ever think about it because it adds pressure,” Martinez said when asked about the record after Wednesday’s All-Star Game “I look forward to continuing to feel good and play well and to score because it is my obligation, but we’ll see. It’s in God’s hands.”
Martinez’s success in Atlanta can be partially attributed to having excellent teammates and chemistry, but the same can’t be said for the All-Star Game, where the team is thrown together at the last moment and doesn’t have the time to get as a single unit. You can also throw in the fact that they are facing a European squad that is more than capable of winning the UEFA Champions League, even if that squad was weakened.
“There’s a lot of pressure,” he said. “Beyond the fact that we had a very good opponent, it was an important game, especially a team of this caliber. We had never played together before. We only had three days to meet, but I think we looked good despite that.”
But the pressure didn’t matter. Martinez simply carried over his form from the league into this friendly match, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. It certainly didn’t catch his Atlanta United teammates off guard.
“I saw him chase down the goalie and slide for a ball that their goalie was clearing, that surprised me a little,” said defender Michael Parkhurst. “But nothing offensively he does surprises me anymore.”
Martinez and Atlanta United return to action this weekend against Toronto FC at home. It’s entirely possible that he scores another hat trick against the defending champions, which would tie the MLS single-season goal record after only 24 games, and nobody would be shocked at all.