Atlanta United won its second consecutive match on Sunday, beating LAFC 1-0 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium thanks to a Josef Martinez goal. It was the first goal the former MVP has notched in front of his worshipping supporters since his return from knee surgery. While it’s great to see the Five Stripes slowly but surely getting back on track and creeping up towards the red playoff line, this day clearly belonged to Atlanta’s beloved No. 7.
On the field, off the field, and in the media Josef Martinez was peak Josef Martinez on Sunday and showed anyone wondering exactly why he’s been dubbed The King by so many Atlanta supporters.
- Everyone knows what Josef brings on the field when he’s at his best. His impact on Atlanta United was clear for all to see in 2020 when the club basically imploded as soon as he went down with a season-ending injury. That’s just how important of a figure he is. While he clearly hasn’t reached his peak form since returning from that long injury layoff, we’re beginning to learn the true extent of the hell he went through to get back to his adoring audience.
It seems like information about his surgery complications and rehab come out piece by piece every time he talks with the media. It was in preseason when he revealed that he had numerous different procedures on his repaired knee due to an infection. It wasn’t until after Sunday’s win that we learned just how dire the situation actually was. He dropped a bombshell in his post-match media availability sharing the revelation that he “seriously considered” retiring due to the issues caused by the complications from his surgeries.
In his post-match media availability, Josef Martinez reveals that he seriously considered retirement due to "very serious complications" following his knee injury.— Mike Conti (@MikeConti929) August 15, 2021
This news just makes his moment on Sunday that much more memorable for those of us who have had the pleasure to watch him since 2017. Josef Martinez is a generational talent within the MLS landscape. We may not truly appreciate that fact in the current day, but the calls of “Build The Statue” aren’t a joke. There is a greater than 0% chance that this man who very few knew existed five years ago will have some form of tribute to him outside of Mercedes-Benz Stadium for as long as it exists.
Who knows how long any athlete has at their peak, so when someone like Josef comes along we must cherish every single minute. Hopefully his issues are behind him and it’s just a matter of working back to full fitness and confidence.
- After the match was over, “El Rey” mixed with his loyal subjects and met a creative fan that showed off a lovely piece of artwork of him. Josef found Lindsay Jason and her brilliant piece in the form of a playing card, naturally a King of Spades, and signed it.
He didn’t stop there, however, he was gracious enough to actually appreciate the work a dedicated supporter had done. That’s the thing about Josef Martinez that resonates so much with the fans, he’s as genuine as they come. He even went as far has gifting Jason his game-worn shirt from the match, a very rare occurrence according to fans.
he said he loves it and genuinely looked happy i love him so much im really not doing ok❤️❤️❤️ sweetest man and he gave me his GAME JERSEY pic.twitter.com/fbYbBKX4YK— linds dilfology PhD (@spookylindsay) August 15, 2021
While the goals and highlights are what the general public and media see the most, it’s moments like this why Atlanta fans were ready to carry the team’s then-manager out of the city over the threat of losing the Martinez just over a month ago. They say there are no players bigger than a club, but Josef Martinez is testing that theory as much as any has in MLS.
- During his meeting with the media in which he revealed his surgery struggles, he also didn’t mince words as usual. He hit on topics, perhaps jokingly or not, such as Ezequiel Barco’s inconsistent offensive output and missing playing with Julian Gressel. This is the type of stuff very few athletes are going to openly admit. Hell, the club’s front office probably cringed hard as soon as they saw the quotes pop up on Twitter.
Josef Martínez said that he wishes he was still playing with Julian Gressel.— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) August 15, 2021
Martínez recalled playing with Almirón and Gressel when describing his relationship with Ezequiel Barco. Martínez referred to Barco as his son, calling Barco "sensitive." Barco has provided Josef w/ two assists this season. Josef called those two assists "a record" for Barco.— Felipe Cárdenas (@FelipeCar) August 15, 2021
This is another perfect example of how one player can be purely adored by a fan base. This type of stuff isn’t supposed to be said out loud in a post-match press conference, especially after a win. But Josef doesn’t do your typical, boring sports clichés. He says what we’re all thinking and most are too afraid to say.
He’s quite simply a man of the people. He’s the King of Atlanta.