Josef Martinez: The Venezuelan Assassin


The newly-introduced franchise Atlanta United have set a new benchmark in Major League Soccer, after emphatically defeating Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup final in December.

The catalyst to their success has been the talismanic Venezuelan international Josef Martinez, who has achieved unprecedented success in the United States.
For those unfamiliar with the MLS, his name may not ring a bell. But he’s undisputedly one of the greatest ever forwards ever to play in the United States and he’s proven his quality with an illustrious goal scoring record.
After just two seasons at Atlanta United, Josef Martinez has scored an incredible 55 goals in 61 appearances and was voted the MLS Most Valuable Player of the Year for his performances in the 2018 campaign, but his introduction to the professional game was from straightforward..

Hardship in Europe

Despite flourishing at Atlanta United, Martinez struggled to adjust to life in Italy during the early stages of his professional career. Martinez was scouted by Swiss outfit BSC Young Boys during his two-year spell with Venezuelan club Caracas, but Torino quickly swooped to lure him to Italy following his inspiring performances for fellow Swiss club FC Thun on a season-long loan.
His move to the Turin-based club had the undesired effect and Martinez concluded an underwhelming three-year spell with a mere seven goals in 58 appearances. He quickly acknowledged that the writing was on the wall and packed his bags for a new adventure with Atlanta United.
Martinez needed to rediscover his goal scoring touch and he started in perfect fashion by scoring five goals in his opening three appearances in the United States. Although Atlanta United originally signed him on a season-long loan with an option to buy, they quickly signed him on a permanent basis and would never look back!
Injuries marred his debut season at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but he was still able to take home the Player of the Month award in his first month and earn a place in the MLS Best XI after finishing the campaign with 20 goals in 20 appearances. It was a spectacular year for the Venezuelan, but the Atlanta United supporters had yet to be treated to his maximum potential…

2018: The Pinnacle of his Powers

Although his performances during his debut season were extremely impressive, Martinez consolidated his rise with the most extraordinary 2018 season. No other player in the MLS came close to him in terms of goals scored and he even netted nine more goals than the world famous LA Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
San Jose Earthquakes legend Chris Wondolowski and New York Red Bulls’ English striker Bradley Wright-Phillips had previously scored the most goals in a single season with 27 goals in 2012 and 2014 respectively. However, Martinez emphatically eclipsed the record with an incredible tally of 31 goals in 34 appearances, including the opening goal in their 2-0 victory over Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup final.
On 21 July 2018, Josef Martinez scored his sixth MLS hat-trick to guide Atlanta United to a 3-1 victory over DC United at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It was another monumental achievement for him, as he became the first ever player to score six hat-tricks in the MLS, taking him above Stern John, Diego Serna and Bradley Wright Phillips.
There are many people who’ve undermined the performances of Martinez because they assume that the quality of the MLS isn’t up to the standards of the high-profile European leagues. To answer the doubters, Martinez has been rumoured to join a number of clubs in Europe with some reports suggesting a valuation of £35 million.
The dynamic striker clearly has the end product to produce at the top level and his experience in Italy can be used as a learning experience rather than a hinderance on his development. He also showed that he’s capable of delivering on the biggest stage when he scored the opening goal to help guide Atlanta United to glory in the MLS Cup just two seasons into their existence.

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