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Darren Eales: Atlanta United don’t want to force Josef Martinez back too early

We might have to wait a little longer to see the striker return up front.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

Having Josef Martinez back in the lineup would have been a big boost for Atlanta United as they take on the Portland Timbers at Providence Park on Sunday, but it appears that it won’t happen. In his weekly appearance yesterday with Carl Dukes and Mike Bell on Atlanta United flagship station 92.9 The Game, team president Darren Eales said that they’re playing it safe in regards to getting the Venezuelan back on the field to avoid the risk of a much more serious injury down the road.

The exact comments begin around the 5:40 mark:

You take NYCFC and take David Villa out, that’s really what we’ve got with Josef Martinez. He’s one of our key players...We want to get him back as quickly as we can, but likewise, he’s so important to us and he’s so young in his career, so we don’t want to force him back too soon.

Eales didn’t specifically say that Martinez would miss Sunday’s match, but his comments here seem to imply that it might be a little longer until his return. There’s no question that Atlanta are a much better side with Martinez in the lineup; however, the physios will continue to work with him to make sure that he is fully fit and ready to perform at a high level whenever he does return.