Josef Martinez simply retains scoring.
When enlargement Atlanta United picked up the striker on mortgage from Torino final season, there was nothing to point that he would change into a breakout star. In 58 Italian league video games over three seasons, he had scored seven objectives.
However upon his arrival in america, Martinez virtually instantly started discovering the web, and Atlanta rapidly executed its choice to purchase him completely for about $5 million. He was restricted by two damage spells to 20 video games, however he powered in 19 objectives. That ranked him fourth within the league, behind three gamers who performed 30 or extra video games every. His group overachieved as effectively, making a visit to the playoffs in its inaugural season.
This season, he’s having the alternative of a sophomore hunch. Martinez has appeared in all 23 league video games for Atlanta and he has stored up the dizzying goal-a-game tempo, scoring 24. He towers excessive of the chief board, 9 objectives forward of runner-up Zlatan Ibrahimovic of the L.A. Galaxy. He additionally leads the desk with eight game-winning objectives.
His six profession hat tips, in a season and a half of play, are already the M.L.S. file. And he’s closing in on a extra venerable mark. Roy Lassiter scored 27 objectives for the now-defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny in 1996. The mark has been matched twice, by Chris Wondolowski in 2012 and Bradley Wright-Phillips in 2014, however by no means exceeded. Barring damage or a catastrophic lack of type, Martinez ought to obliterate it.
Martinez has a close to William Inform-like accuracy: 65 % of his pictures are on purpose, the very best price among the many high 10 scorers, most of whom are below 50 %. He additionally has a knack for scoring headers, regardless of being solely 5-foot-7, due to his leaping means.
A few of the credit score for Martinez’s prolific scoring has gone to Gerardo Martino, the group’s coach. He arrived in Atlanta with a glittering resume that included stints at Barcelona and the Argentine nationwide group, and lived as much as it by guiding United to on the spot success. Maybe sensing he had a purpose scorer on his fingers, he additionally shifted Martinez to middle ahead.
“Josef got here right here with out actually enjoying a lot as a middle ahead earlier than,” he instructed Univision. “He got here right here and tailored very effectively, and that may be seen.”
And Atlanta is exceeding final 12 months’s maiden efficiency; the group has the very best file within the league.
Averaging a purpose per sport is the Holy Grail for a striker, and is awfully troublesome to attain. It’s by no means occurred in Main League Soccer, and no main scorer has managed it for the reason that creation of the Premier League. In Spain, the feat has been achieved solely by the greats: just lately, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi.
Although Martinez continues to be solely 25 he in all probability received’t ever get to face off in opposition to these or different high gamers in a World Cup. He hails from Venezuela, the uncommon South American nation the place baseball is king. It has by no means made a World Cup and positioned 10th of 10 in qualifying for the 2018 occasion.
You additionally won’t see Martinez within the M.L.S. for lengthy. His scoring has prompted a lot hypothesis that he will probably be certain for a giant European group within the close to future, although he instructed SB Nation, “I reside within the current. I don’t take into consideration the long run. So proper now I’m pleased in Atlanta.”
If he does go, he might set one other file, for largest M.L.S. switch. Alphonso Davies headed to Bayern Munich final week for $22 million, breaking a decade-old file set by Jozy Altidore.