If Atlanta United is to snap its winless run this weekend, the team might have to do so without star striker Josef Martinez.
Atlanta United head coach Gabriel Heinze told reporters on Thursday that he has separated Martinez from team practice. Heinze did not give a specific reason for the decision to isolate Martinez from the group, but the striker has been working out on his own since July 6.
“He does not have any kind of fitness problem,” said Heinze on a conference call. “It is my decision that he train away from the team. He will continue to train on his own.”
“I have my reasons and I am very clear on those reasons,” Heinze later added.
Martinez, 28, has been practicing apart from the team since returning from being with Venezuela’s national team at Copa America 2021. The former MLS Golden Boot winner was one of several players on La Vinotinto that tested positive for COVID-19 before the tournament in Brazil began, and did not play a single minute, nor did he dress for any match.
Atlanta United is in its first season under Heinze, who has struggled for results. The Argentine has thus far led the team to a 2-3-7 record, and is currently trying to figure out how to end a seven-game winless skid that has dropped the side to 10th place in the Eastern Conference.
This is not the first time this MLS campaign that a prolific striker has been separated from a team and told to train on his own. Jozy Altidore was frozen out of Toronto FC back in May, but the recent firing of head coach Chris Armas opened the doors for Altidore to return to full practice.
Atlanta United’s next game is at home on Saturday against the New England Revolution, who are atop the conference.