The Josef Martinez machine keeps rolling for Atlanta United.
The Venuzuelan striker scored 2 more goals - his 23rd and 24th of the season - as Atlanta held on for a 2-1 win against the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo. Martinez has now scored in Atlanta’s last 6 matches, increasing his Golden Boot lead to 9 goals over the Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips and putting himself just 4 goals from sole possession of the MLS single-season goals record.
It’s July 28, by the way, at the time of this writing. There are 11 matches remaining in the regular season.
There were no clear-cut scoring chances early on as the game took a little bit to get its legs. Atlanta looked to break through in the 17th minute as Julian Gressel sent a great ball forward to Miguel Almiron, who passed it to the top of the box to Gressel for a shot that was stopped by Evan Bush - but Martinez’s header off the rebound went wide for a Montreal goal kick. Moments later, Saphir Taider sailed a free kick just over the net as the Impact bid for the match’s opening goal.
Then, in the 31st minute, the visitors struck first. Tito Villalba’s cross from the left found Martinez, whose perfect header beat Bush to make it a 1-0 lead.
After a hour-plus delay at halftime due to lightning in the area, Atlanta United started the second 45 minutes a little flat, but in the 57th minute, it doubled the margin. A wild sequence in front of the net - ignited by a brilliant run by Franco Escobar - ended with a tap-in by Martinez to give him goal number 24 on the year.
Things got a little hairy just before the 88th minute as Ignacio Piatti was given far too much space in front of goal, slotting in his 11th of the year to make it a 2-1 affair. But Atlanta were able to see the match out and end Montreal’s stretch of five straight wins at home while earning an MLS-best seventh away win.
Standings-wise, Atlanta received some help from the Columbus Crew, who put up 3 in the first half at Red Bull Arena before holding on for a 3-2 win. Atlanta’s win puts them 4 clear of NYCFC and 6 clear of the Red Bulls with 47 points, despite the two New York-area clubs holding a pair of games in hand.
Next up for the Five Stripes is an August 4 home match on the other side of the All-Star Game against Toronto FC. Kickoff from Mercedes-Benz Stadium is set for 4pm on ESPN.