The one harsh truth in life that we must all face is that every thing has a beginning and an end. No matter how strange and sad it may be, we may have seen Josef Martinez’s last match as an Atlanta United player. After a frustrating start to the season filled with injuries and rehab, it didn’t get much better when he returned to the field. A poor season for the club results-wise and Josef not looking very Josef-like all culminated in the temperamental striker coming to blows with manager Gonzalo Pineda. A post-match lockerroom dust up saw the Venezuelan hit with a team-implemented suspension and a permanent relegation to reserve role to end the season. If reports are to be believed, the relationship between player and club has hit the point of no return with a offseason move looking extremely likely.
Minutes: 1,456 (26 games played, 12 starts)
What went right?
Not much! However, despite all the negatives on the season, Josef proved he’s still capable of producing moments of absolute magic. During the final stretch run of the season — coincidentally in very match that saw Atlanta United eliminated from playoff contention — the former MVP struck the second MLS Goal of the Year of his career. A spectacular bicycle kick finish against the New England Revolution was the talk of the league despite his club being knocked out of the postseason race.
OMG, JOSEF MARTINEZ! WHAT. A. GOAL. pic.twitter.com/ljJwK9zAID— Major League Soccer (@MLS) October 1, 2022
This season also saw Josef hit a huge club milestone as he scored his 100th MLS goal in mid-August. And despite all the issues surrounding this season he still managed to finish as the team’s leading scorer.
What to improve on?
The biggest difference between Josef this season and in previous years was his fitness, or lack thereof. His ability to move around the field with maximum effort seemed almost non-existent. That felt like a big reason why he fell out of favor of Gonzalo Pineda who demands that his forwards be able to press with high intensity. If Josef is to have a bounce back season in 2023 and reclaim his spot among the elite forwards in MLS he’ll need to dedicate himself to improving his fitness.
What role will he play in 2023?
According to Felipe Cardenas of The Athletic, Josef was told by the club in a post-season meeting that they will look to move him on this offseason. As hard as it is to admit, this is probably the best solution for both the club and player. We are clearly entering a new chapter of Atlanta United’s history with Gonzalo Pineda’s place firmly entrenched and Garth Lagerwey entering the fold as new club president. It just doesn’t seem like there’s a place for Josef in this new era.