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Atlanta United Final Exams: Josef Martinez

Can it get any better?

MLS: MLS Cup-Portland Timbers vs Atlanta United FC Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Josef Martinez

Position: Striker

Games Played: 39 Appearances, 39 Starts

Goals: 35

Assists: 7

Josef’s was a season for the ages. It is no exaggeration that he had the single greatest year for a striker in the history of MLS. Plucked from relative obscurity in Serie A with Torino, his first year in MLS got off to a promising start, but then got sidetracked by an injury picked up on international duty with Venezuela, only to come back and give us all a very good idea of what that year would have been under different circumstances. This year, we all found out just what could have been.

What went right this season: A pretty long list:

  • League MVP
  • MLS Cup MVP
  • Regular season goal scoring record (31)
  • Regular season and playoffs goal scoring record (35)
  • Career hat-trick record (6)
  • Fastest player to 50 goals (54 games)
  • MLS All-Star Game appearance and goal

I’m sure I missed a few. Not only did Josef score, he did it in every way imaginable. With his right foot, with his left foot, with his head, from the penalty spot. Scoring with his head is perhaps the most impressive of his feats. At only 5’6”, he has a vertical leap that gets him above defenders 6 or more inches taller. He is also fearless, risking collisions with players and goalposts alike (but no longer, thankfully, with pyro equipment).

This year he also showed a willingness to drop back into midfield and even occasionally into the defense. His average playing position was frequently behind Miguel Almiron’s. This is an additional wrinkle to his game that makes him even harder for opponents to contain. And remarkably for a consummate goal-poacher, he is unselfish. In addition to all the goals, he notched 7 assists this year, up from just 1 last year.

What he needs to improve on: Well, let’s see. On April 21st against the LA Galaxy, he hit the goalpost from the penalty spot. With that, he ended the season 8-of-9 from the spot, leaving him one short of the single-season penalty scoring record (Jaime Moreno of DC United went 9-for-9 in 2005). Also, his goals per 90 rate dropped from 1.12 in 2017 to 0.96 this season. Yes, I’m grabbing at straws here.

And no, he does not need to work on staying onside.

What role will he play in 2019: Er, pretty much the same, I would think. Frank de Boer is hardly likely to take the league’s best striker out of his game. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Grade: A+