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Recap: Atlanta United coasts past Motagua, advance to CCL quarterfinals

It was a good night for players on Atlanta with the last name of Martinez.

Adam Hagy/Atlanta United

KENNESAW—Pity Martinez scored a goal in either half and assisted on Josef Martinez’s 2nd half tally as Atlanta United defeated FC Motagua 3-0 in the 2nd leg of the Concacaf Champions League Round of 16. Atlanta advance to the CCL quarterfinals on a 4-1 aggregate scoreline and will face either Club América or Comunicaiones, with those teams knotted at 1-1 on aggregate and América holding the edge with an away goal.

What happened

Atlanta United found itself knocking on the door as the first half progressed, and finally broke through in the 40th minute through Pity Martinez. Josef Martinez’s pretty heel flick pass found the Argentinian, who broke a scoreless deadlock with a far post finish to bury the chance that had evaded him all night.

With 30 minutes to go, the Martinez-Martinez connection struck again. Pity found Josef up the middle on the break, and the Venezuelan was able to round the keeper and turn in a great finish to give Atlanta a 2-0 edge on the night and 3-1 on aggregate.

And in the 83rd minute, Pity added a 2nd for good measure to clinch Atlanta’s spot in the next round. Jonathan Rougier came out of his net and appeared to take down Josef Martinez at the edge of the box, but referee Keylor Herrera let the match continue to give Pity nothing but a wide-open net to shoot at.

Remember when you were when the Pity Martinez redemption tour began

When Atlanta United brought in Pity Martinez from River Plate before the 2019 season, it was hopeful that he would make a quick acclimation to MLS. That didn’t happen as it ended up a rather frustrating campaign for a number of reasons, not the least of which being some open disagreement with Frank de Boer’s tactical decisions and de Boer offering some pointed criticism to his No. 10 during one postgame press conference in particular.

It appears time heals all wounds. On Tuesday night, to be blunt, it looked a bit like the old Pity. But as the match progressed, it looked as if a new, more focused Martinez was ready to truly stake his claim in the vaunted Atlanta attack.

“He wants to be a very important player for the team and also help the young guys,” said Frank de Boer. “I’m really pleased with what he’s showing on the training pitch, but also I think that he’s showing his quality. I think he can still do better, but if this is the start I’m already happy.”

For Pity, he himself admitted that 2019 wasn’t his best start in MLS, but he mentioned the much greater comfort level he has this season.

“My head wasn’t where it needed to be,” Martinez said. “This is a new year. I’m feeling very comfortable. I always try to give my best, and last year it just didn’t happen for me, but I’m in a good moment.”

We’ll see if that comfort carries on to MLS play and as CCL play progresses, but if it does, especially with the league’s most lethal striker up front in Josef Martinez and a player in Ezequiel Barco that might have designs on playing overseas as early as this summer, look out.

Also, Barco was really good. Jake Mulraney had a strong start in his official Atlanta United debut. To round it out, Motagua had 0 shots on goal and Brad Guzan didn’t have to make a save all night.

Man of the match


Tweet of the night

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