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Josef Martinez: This Club For Me Is Much More Important Than Any Other

Humble words from a history maker

MLS: Inter Miami CF at Atlanta United FC Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

If you don’t read the entire set of quotes from the post-match press conferences in these articles, trust me when I say I’m not offended. I understand they can be long at times, I just personally love the insight they give into the club. But in this case, do yourself a favor as an Atlanta United fan and read this one. You won’t find a more heartfelt set of words from a sports team on the planet. Josef Martinez laid his heart out in the press conference just like he does on the pitch, and believe me when I say the love from the fans is not lost on him.

Atlanta United’s win against Inter Miami was not only necessary, it was expected. The energy in Mercedes-Benz Stadium had an extra air of anticipation to it because of the looming 100th goal by Josef, and as the match progressed it just seemed like it was closer and closer to happening. When that ball whacked LGP’s arm, though, every single person in that place was keenly aware that they were about to witness history. People started pulling out their phones like they were about to light them up for a concert. To later hear Josef say he felt so much pressure that he almost let someone else take the penalty should tell you just how much he truly doesn’t want to let us down. And that was just one of the many statements he made that makes it so clear that this man will probably retire here if given the chance. Check out everything he, Brad Guzan, and Gonzalo Pineda had to say after this historic night:

Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda:

On if having Josef Martinez ‘was the difference in getting a win’ in tonight’s match…

“That’s a tricky question because, I feel like, yes, Josef Martinez is massively important for how we play, both for how much he can produce as a futbol player but also as a leader, as someone people can rely on taking the ball in tough areas and getting it at his teammates and showing a little bit how we need to attack. So, I would say he is very important, but I would like to say that even when Josef is international, when Josef is out of the lineup, I would like also for the team to win. I prepare the team – no matter who’s in, who’s out – to win. In some sense, yes, he is very important, but I would prefer, no matter who’s on the field, we still have a solid performance.”

On if he considered taking Josef Martinez out of the game due to upcoming schedule…

“Yeah, I had that on my mind. I actually asked Josef. I have good communication with him, so he knows that if at any moment, he feels something, I can pull him out. I’m here to help Josef get fit and perform at a high level all the time. I decided, at the end, it was a good moment because he was tired and he could receive all of the love from the fans, and that was emotional for him.”

On why Josef Martinez played nearly 90 minutes in tonight’s match…

“Well, it’s a very good question. I think when I said I need to manage the minutes of Josef, I wasn’t talking just about this game, I was talking in general. Yes, this game, things were going probably better at halftime, and we have a better scoreline, then maybe I can take Josef off. ... I’ve said to you guys Josef is a warrior – someone that is going to do everything for this club, someone who is going to play with one leg if he has to. I know Josef, and he has that big heart. It’s my job to make sure that he plays with both legs so he is more efficient, but I think he’s going to do whatever he needs to do to make sure the team wins.”

On the performance tonight from both Marcelino Moreno and Luiz Araújo…

“I will start by saying that assessing performances you have to take that in context of the game. In the context of the game, I probably put Marcelino and reflecting on it, maybe I put him in a bad position because he had to start the sequences from a different position, and obviously, he was trying to do more on the attacking half. At times, that disorganized – a little bit – the team because he was in higher positions and then (Ezequiel) Barco and Luiz Araújo were not receiving the ball in those spaces. So, I had to make an adjustment just based that I need more solid pair of center-mids to attract the position, and then create a space for Luiz Araújo and Barco. It wasn’t like I feel like Marcelino played poorly. He played normal Marcelino, but tactically, I needed more of a second center-mid. Then, I was pleased with Araújo, the same, because, again, it was a tough position for him, because it was tough for him to find the pockets that Araújo usually wants to, but I felt like he was into the game. He was trying. He was trying very hard. He was tracking back, which I liked. I’m happy with him – in the effort … and I know the futbol and the connections are going to come with time. I’ve told you he is still adapting to the league knowing different types of players and dealing with his teammates. I’m sure Araújo is progressing well. I’m happy with his progression, and hopefully, he can impact the game on the defensive side.”

On the team’s ability to apply pressure throughout the match:

“Based on our stats, we had expected goals of 2.71 against 0.76, so I felt that we created enough chances to probably impact the game earlier, but the games are like that. I think Inter Miami did a very good job, [Nick Marsman] was very solid, and I was impressed with their buildup from goal-kicks. [Marsman] did a very good job in the first couple of minutes, which surprised us a little bit, and then their transitions were very difficult when [Gonzalo] Higuaín was running between the lines and causing us problems. It wasn’t an easy game to play, but the part that I liked was when they were in a solid lower block, we were able to unlock certain things based on good possession and movement of the ball, especially in the second half. I thought transitions were also a good way to impact, but it was destiny that it had to be Josef [Martínez] with a penalty to score his 100th goal and help us to win as a team.”

On the team wanting Josef Martínez to score his hundredth goal:

“I felt that the team knew about the 99 goals and that [Josef Martínez] was close, and they were trying to help their friend. I mean, Josef is a beloved player on the team and in the locker-room, so I am sure some of them were trying to get him to score the goal, but a normal Josef in any other game attracts those balls in those areas because he is a center forward, so we are always trying to get good balls for Josef because he is a superb finisher. I would say it was a little bit of both, normal play, but today, maybe they were trying a little bit more for him.”

On halftime adjustments due to Inter Miami’s tactics:

“I think I just said to go to two center midfielders, because [Santiago] Sosa was doing a great job of winning the ball, but at times he was looking for longer passes and it was very easy for [Inter Miami] to shift over, and I wanted to penetrate a little bit more through the middle, and the way to do it was bring in a second center mid. I told [Matheus] Rossetto to stay just next to [Sosa], and then have two players there to attack them a bit more and pull [Blaise] Matuidi out so then [Ezequiel] Barco would have more space. They moved to a back four with only one player up front, so then we had three centerbacks for one players, so I tried to adjust to that, and there were a few adjustments that the players applied and understood, which credit to them, they adjusted within the game.”

Atlanta United goalkeeper Brad Guzan:

On tonight’s performance and his mood following the match:

“Obviously the result helps, right. But I think the manager may have touched on the performance already. It wasn’t pretty at times, in the first half we had to weather some storms. But we made changes at halftime and then second half I don’t think that Miami had a real sniff at goal. That was pleasing to see in terms of our adjustments, and our commitment and attitude. I know that everyone will talk about Josef’s 100th goal, but if you remember a play in the second half by our corner flag, he covers and defends at the top of the box off the corner, to my left hand side, and ends up winning the ball. For me, that’s a massive moment in the game and that shows the type of commitment not only Josef had, but everyone on the pitch tonight. Understanding what this game was about, understanding that it doesn’t matter how we got it done, but that we had to come away with three points.”

On the center backs play tonight:

“I think you saw in the first half, the ability from Miles (Robinson), Alan (Franco) and Anton (Walkes) to cover. Alan’s savviness to read situations and the way he plays. Not to get to tight to them, and then step in at the right moment and win the ball. Same thing with Anton, he’s able to run down balls played in behind down the sides. Those guys were great tonight. There are still moments where we could be better, of course. But, with that being said, it’s nice to have athletic center backs that can see the game, read the game and put out fires.”

On how Josef Martinez’s impact changed over the years:

“The thing that Josef brings that you guys maybe don’t see, or only see a little bit of it in games, the thing that he brings, besides his goals which obviously change games, but the thing he brings is a commitment, intensity and desire to win. You can’t teach that. You can’t teach someone to want to win. They either have it or they don’t. And he has it in so much excess of it in terms of his ability to want to win. In the locker room he gave a little speech, and talked about his character or this and that and that’s just who he is. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Without him, you lose that spark on the other side of the field. I couldn’t be more happier for him on this milestone. It couldn’t happen to a better guy, and I say that genuinely. He cares about this club, this city. When you see his reaction after the game, after the goal, that speaks volumes. What he’s done for us as a club, for this city, for this league it’s his desire to want to win that is special. You either have that or you don’t. He makes guys around him better.”

On the work and commitment Josef Martinez puts in:

“Listen, the amount of work he puts in, and I know the struggles he went through with the injury probably more than you guys know. To see the ability to come back from that. He may say the same thing later, he’s probably not all the way the same Josef as he was before the injury, but again it’s a credit to his willingness to want to win, his willingness and desire to help the team be successful in whatever way possible. He finds a way and that’s a sign of a winner.”

On seeing a different level from Miles Robinson and George Bello since they played in World Cup Qualifying:

“It’s funny, because I could tell you the conversations I had with them. Unless you have experienced World Cup Qualifying in Central America, you won’t fully grasp those conversations. The first conversation I had with them when they got back was “Well, what was it like?” and they were like “Yeah, you can’t explain it. You have to experience it.” The difficulty of the field, the opposition, the crowd and everything that goes into Concacaf World Cup Qualifying, you know you can’t understand it until you have experienced it. They said that it’s different, difficult even crazy at times. But now those are games they have under their belt, and they have to continue to learn and grow from those games. You look at Miles and his last 3 or so months, his growth as a player, it’s been exciting to see. It’s only going to continue to go like that.”

Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez

On if he is feeling happy after reaching 100 goals and why he gave the jersey to Brek Shea

“Happy, yes, for sure. Also I worried about the game because it wasn’t an amazing game today but we won. That’s important. I’m happy because it’s not every day that you score 100 goals so I want to thank all of my teammates and past teammates, everyone working at Atlanta United and also for my city because they mean a lot. And Brek, because he texted me before the game. That’s my guy. He’s a good guy. I love him a lot.”

On his favorite goal of the 100

“Every one. I think the first one is the most important.”

On if he has recognized the impact he’s had on the club, the city and the league and if he’s stopped to think about that after all he’s been through

“I don’t know. I hope one day, because I know that all this is over quick, I hope one day to be remembered as a person who wanted to give the best for the club, the city, for the colors and that’s what makes it the most important. This club for me is much more important than any other, and this city, this stadium, they gave me a lot of love when I needed it most and going through a tough moment. And I’m a part of them and they’re a part of me and my heart belongs to this club. And I just want to thank each of you and every person who has been with me these five years and I want to reach 200.”

On his emotions and if he ever thought this was possible when he came to Atlanta

“It’s difficult. It’s difficult because as I said the last time I was sitting here, six months ago I didn’t have the will to keep playing. A few days ago one of the people who made this possible, Freddy Fu, passed away. A lot of days of suffering and thinking if it would be possible to reach 100 because you don’t get to 100 every day. And more at one club. But I play with passion, for love, not for money or anything specific, just to win. And I have a lot of things going through my head but I share it with you and all my teammates because they are the ones who made this possible.”

On if he knew how he was going to take the penalty kick and what’s his favorite nickname

“When I grabbed the ball, at one moment I thought about giving it to someone else. I felt more pressure than any other day. A lot of things in my head. I just tried to breathe and simply take it. And the other question, I don’t know. Whatever you guys like. I like Josef.”

On the speech he gave in the locker room

“I thanked all of the people there in the locker room, the doctors, the president, the cleaning staff, security staff – for this beautiful day. One of the most important days of my life. And we knew this was a difficult game. And aside from the goal, the victory was more important. These are three valuable points. Since we lost to Philadelphia over the weekend. Today we suffered and won and we have to think about the next one.

On Brad Guzan’s comments that he has a desire to win that can’t be taught and where did that come from

“This is a sport that we like but it’s also our job. They pay me to score goals to win, obviously. But one time in Switzerland after a shit training session a coach told me ‘look at the people that are working, they work eight hours a day for a low salary and they do it all with love. So for the two hours that you guys are on the field you have to give your best.’ It’s not the same to just do a job and to do it with love. This is what I like, until the day I don’t feel that love then I’ll stop playing. And it’s not the same to win as to lose. And I don’t want to lose. That’s what I was taught. If you want something you have to get it, no one is going to give it to you.”

On the next accomplishment that he wants to reach

“First place. And 200.”

On Gonzalo Pineda talking about managing his minutes and this being a time of the season where the games need to be won

“Last week I had a little problem due to playing a lot of minutes. I had some treatments and injections to get the ligaments moving. Obviously, you want to play. We’ve had conversations. When you can play you can, when you can’t you can’t. After the goal they asked if I needed a substitution and I said no because the game was tight. But at the end my body said that was enough. It’s tough because I haven’t had a lot of rest since I came back playing. But sometimes people don’t understand that your body is important. Now people are killing me on social media saying that I don’t to play for the national team. For me, my body is more important than anything.”

On his participation with the Venezuelan national team in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers

“I’ve had conversations with the coach and I have to thank him because he asked me to be honest with him and unfortunately I had to tell him that I’ve had problems with my rehabilitation. I’m having treatment and injections. I already had one and that’s why I couldn’t play against Philadelphia and I have to take care of myself. Even though to play with the national team is what I wish the most, for any player, but you have to give 140 %. You can’t give 30 or 40 % because you’re going against the best players in the world and I can’t look bad to him or anyone. I was honest with him and told him that I prefer to take care of myself and recover faster.”

Hearing these quotes from Josef, Brad, and Gonzalo, seeing the man tear up as he walked around the field after accepting the MOTM award and almost crying when speaking with Jillian Sakovits, and watching the entire team hug him after the goal speaks absolute volumes. Josef Martinez loves the city of Atlanta, and to make history here is just as special for the fans as it was for him. Just go take two seconds to look at Atlanta United social media and you’ll see what I mean. Here’s my example, and there are thousands more like it:

Besides the main storyline of the 100th goal, I’ve seen some people bothered that the score line wasn’t higher. But Miami did exactly what a team does when they’ve gotten destroyed in back-to-back games: they clog defensively and hold on tight for a point, especially in an away game. It was blatantly obvious their whole game plan was to shut down BAMM and fight for a draw. I don’t feel like Atlanta played a bad game. This same game in the Heinze era would absolutely have been a draw or loss. Just as Gonzo mentioned in the press conference, they had chances, the team looked much more alive than it did against Philly, and sometimes it’s hard to dominate a team that is set on playing defensively. But when they fight for those chances and press the ball forward, eventually the team gets rewarded. A penalty kick is only given to the teams who are driving into the box, and it’s even better when Josef Martinez is the one taking it.

Build the statue.