Atlanta United’s high-flying attack is at it again in 2018. After setting records for its proficiency in front of goal in its inaugural season, the goals are still flying in three matches into the second campaign. While the Five Stripes have a gluttony of talent on the roster, there’s not much debate about who carries the majority of the load for Tata Martino’s attack.
The confident, emotional, uber-talented ball of energy that is Josef Martinez leads the Atlanta line. Every fan who buys a ticket to see United play are guaranteed a fantastic matchday experience, an exciting match of soccer, and on most nights, a blank stare and a statue-esque pose from No. 7 in black and red after he’s rippled the net with a breath-taking goal.
If Mercedes-Benz Stadium is the new palace of American soccer, there’s no doubt that Josef Martinez is the King. In just 14 career regular season appearances at home (MBS and Bobby Dodd Stadium combined), he’s managed an astounding 20 goals. That accounts for 84 percent of his total goals in MLS. Of all players who have scored more than 15 goals combined over the past three years, only one other player in MLS has a higher discrepancy of goals scored at home.
Josef’s scoring exploits at home are phenomenal, however, you might be shocked to find that his record away from home is not as good. In fact, you might could even call it downright average. Thanks to his long injury layoff in 2017 and a back-loaded fixture list of home games, Josef has only appeared in nine total away matches so far in his MLS career. In those nine games, he’s only scored a goal in one of them. That’s a mind-blowing fact considering how lethal he is in front of goal.
Thankfully for his away scoring rate (which is above average), the one away match he did score in, he managed to score one of his four career hat tricks. Yes, it was that famous snow game in Minnesota that even sparked his own customized t-shirt at the start of last season. If not for that great day, Josef’s home/away splits could be glaringly bad.
Thanks to those three goals in Minnesota, he sits at roughly 0.4 goals per away game. Legendary MLS striker Robbie Keane totaled almost that exact away strike rate though his last two seasons in the league, and if he could maintain this rate it would generally be considered a successful away campaign. But he probably can’t count on sporadic hat tricks to do it. It’s important to note that 62 percent of all MLS goals are scored by the home team. So, the fact that Josef is more productive in a friendly environment isn’t too surprising. And it’s way too early to start panicking that Josef can’t do it on a cold, rainy night in Salt Lake. But this trend is something to keep an eye on as the 2018 season progresses.
Listen, as an Atlanta fan, it’s great to tout Josef as “more than a goal per game” scorer. And it feels even better to extrapolate that out over the course of a full 34-game season instead of the injury-riddled one he had last year. But these numbers show that Josef doesn’t score that consistently, and we shouldn’t project him to do so when predicting his goalscoring numbers this season. Maybe the better simple-yet-still-homer math is (17 home games X 1 goals/game) + (17 away games X 0.4 goals/game) = 24 goals, which lines up with Sam Jones’ bullish over/under of 23.
We all know Josef loves Atlanta and loves scoring in front of the home crowd. However, if he is to fulfill his potential of becoming a Golden Boot winner or even an MVP candidate, he’ll need to start converting his chances in tough environments as well.