The defending MLS champs are currently holding their breath.
Defending Golden Boot winner and leading scorer Josef Martinez was carted off in the final stages of Atlanta United’s 3-1 home win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night.
After a collision followed up by an awkward landing in the 79th minute at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Martinez was seen in tears on the sidelines. Five Stripes head coach Frank de Boer will know Martinez’s diagnosis on Sunday, but is already fearful of a long-term absence for the Venezuelan.
“I’m afraid that he has something serious, but we have to wait,” de Boer said. “They’re evaluating him now. Probably tomorrow we can have a better diagnosis and then we have to make our plan.”
“We know Josef a little bit — he’s a tough guy. He will not suddenly step off the field. He will have something, that’s for sure. But we have to wait. It’s too early to predict. But I think it’s not a good sign that he goes off … but it’s like that. We have to deal with it. Again, we have to wait.”
Martinez saw his MLS record 15-consecutive matches with a goal streak ended on Saturday, but his team rallied to earn a full three points at home. The defending champions are still in the race for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference with three matches remaining.
Justin Meram, Emerson Hyndman, and Pity Martinez all got on the scoresheet on Saturday, but if Josef Martinez cannot play again this season it will leave a major hole in the Five Stripes attack. The 26-year-old has 76 career MLS goals in 82 appearances since joining the club in 2017. He has 26 goals in 28 appearances in 2019.
“First of all we have to wait, but I’m in soccer so long now other players would have to step up in that moment,” De Boer said. “If he’s out for one or two games or more then other players have to stand up. That’s what they’re training for – to step in. And I warn them every time, every moment – be patient, your chance will come. But then you have to be ready.
“Hopefully other people will stand up. I’m going to see which one will replace him if he’s injured. Hopefully, I don’t have to think about it.”
Atlanta resumes regular season play on Wednesday at current East leaders NYCFC.