Atlanta United put up perhaps their best performance of the season in a 2-1 win over NYCFC on Sunday evening. The Five Stripes, behind two record-breaking goals by Josef Martinez and an inspired performance by Pity Martinez, kept pace with the Philadelphia Union at the top of the Eastern conference table. Here are a few thoughts on a vibrant victory:
Pity, Pity ... Pity Good
It’s no coincidence that (in my opinion) Atlanta United’s best overall performance of the season comes alongside Pity Martinez’s most complete and impactful 90 minutes since joining the club in the winter. If the trajectory of Pity’s Atlanta career is drastically altered for the better, his shift against NYCFC could very well be his “Aha!” moment.
We’ve been begging and pleading for a complete performance from Pity after he’s shown glimpses of his brilliance in the midst of some real struggles. We finally got that in this match. He was lively from the opening whistle, creating chances, closing down defenders and working hard for the majority of the match. Sure, he still made mistakes and misplaced some passes, but it came at the risk of trying things and not just blatant unforced errors. He played a huge hand in the team’s first goal with a gorgeous throughball to Julian Gressel for the secondary assist. He won the penalty that led to the second goal and should’ve won another to ice the match in second half stoppage time.
He didn’t drop his head and sulk when things went awry. He didn’t flop on the ground when not connecting with a teammate. He looked focused and determined to make an impact on the match and that’s exactly what he did. Pity was my Man of the Match.
I was panicking in the first half. After Josef Martinez’s first chance of the match was put wide of goal, he held his groin area and looked toward the bench as if he had re-aggravated the injury that kept him out midweek. I envisioned a long-term future of this team without Josef Martinez and let me tell you, that future has a grim outlook. That’s no disrespect to the rest of the squad, but losing someone who just broke a record by scoring in 10 straight MLS matches would kill any team’s momentum and moral.
Thankfully it appears that Josef’s injury is just going to cause him discomfort and not keep him sidelined. He may not be 100 percent and may not be for a while, but he’s still better than anyone you could hope to have leading Atlanta’s line. He took his first half header brilliantly, finishing off a lovely goal. Then he showed the confidence and swagger we all expect by stepping up to the spot for his second. Josef could’ve easily had two, three or even four more goals to his name with the good chances that were created, but we’ll settle for the measly two and yet another amazing record broken.
This Is It, Chief
This is what we’ve been wanting all season. It was attacking, free flowing and beautiful to watch. Atlanta’s back line was susceptible to counters and needed Brad Guzan to make a big save in the first half. But that’s fine. This is the Atlanta United we fell in love with and want to see. If the team loses while playing this attacking style of soccer, so be it. I hope the majority of the fan base can accept that. It sure beats being boring and still getting beat, that’s for sure. Keep doing this and you’ll win over all the doubters and haters and parody accounts calling for walkouts.
Bonus knee-jerk and uninformed thought: