Defending MLS Golden Boot winner Josef Martinez is set for a spell on the sidelines.
After leaving Saturday’s 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes with a knee injury, Martinez is expected to miss several weeks. Atlanta United head coach Frank de Boer confirmed Martinez’s status at training on Monday.
“You predict the worst at that moment or you think the worst, so I was predicting maybe four weeks out or something like that,” de Boer told reporters. “Right now it doesn’t look so bad, but it’s quite early to say. We have a good feeling that hopefully he can return quicker than we thought.
“He still has pain, which means there is something wrong. Hopefully he can return quicker than we expected.”
Martínez collided with a teammate and fell awkwardly, twisting his knee and ankle in the late stages of Saturday’s win. The Venezuelan was forced to hobble off in the 79th minute and went to the locker room on a stretcher, leaving many Five Stripes fans concerned about his status.
De Boer also told reporters an initial test revealed Martínez does not have ligament damage and “nothing is broken.”
Since his arrival in MLS, Martinez has been one of the league’s best goalscorers if not the best. In 88 combined regular-season and playoff games, he has 80 goals which includes 26 goals in 28 games this season. Martínez had scored in a record 15 consecutive MLS games before Saturday and also holds MLS’ single-season goals record, and the league’s career record for hat tricks.
“You cannot replace that,” de Boer said. “You need that. It means that other players have to step up, other guys who will replace him. I have to deal with it. I can’t be sitting crying in the corner knowing that he’s not there. I’m still positive.”
The defending league champs have already clinched a playoff berth and next travel to NYCFC on Wednesday. Hector Villalba and Brandon Vazquez are the likely candidates to take Martinez’s spot in de Boer’s starting lineup for the trip to Yankee Stadium.