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Josef Martinez is not only a golden boot contender, he could win it

It would be an unbelievable feat for someone who’s missed over three months.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Atlanta United FC Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

As we all know by now, Josef Martinez made headlines this week by scoring two consecutive hat-tricks, becoming only the third MLS player to do so. At the same time he joined an elite group of four players to score three hat-tricks in a single season. On top of that, with the goal against FC Dallas last Sunday he set an MLS record for goals scored in one week (7). If he scores 2 goals on Wednesday, he will match Diego Serna’s record of 8 goals over a three-game span (Serna achieved that mark over 8 days in September 2000 with the Miami Fusion, scoring 5, 1 and 2). You can read more about this here.

Those goals have put Josef right back into the conversations about who will win this year’s Golden Boot. With the 5 goals he scored in the first 3 games before getting injured on national duty with Venezuela, he was the odds-on favorite. But he dropped out of contention with his extended absence while recovering, and with David Villa scoring consistently, it became what looked like a one-horse race.

All that has changed. Josef is back, and scoring at a record pace. Diego Valeri also had a record-setting week, scoring in his 8th straight game. David Villa had a hamstring injury (ironically also incurred on national duty) and was forced to sit briefly while his competitors for the crown played on. Villa however returned to play as a substitute against the Colorado Rapids Saturday night, logging 18 minutes.

So it’s game on for the Golden Boot. Let’s take a statistical look at what each player’s chances are. The table below includes the top ten scorers in MLS to date:

Josef has several factors in his favor. First, he has more games remaining than any other player on this list. That should come as no surprise to Atlanta United fans, who are already well aware of the team’s fixture congestion. Second, he is scoring at an unprecedented rate. 1.39 goals per 90 minutes played is far higher than any other player in MLS has ever achieved, the record being a mere 1.08 logged by Stern John in 1998. Third, his shot conversion percentage is an incredibly impressive 30.8%, well above any of the competition. His penalty kick performance is also perfect so far, which is matched only by David Villa.

I extrapolated how many more goals each player is likely to score by applying their scoring rates to the number of games have left to play (assuming none of them miss any time the rest of the season). Math nerds among you will note that I rounded the potential goals down in all cases, because you can’t score a partial goal. On that basis, Josef wins with a 3-goal margin. Even more remarkably, if he wins, he will do it with just 21 games and 18 starts, both fewer than any of the other contenders have already played.

Whether he wins or not, one thing is sure: Josef Martinez is one of the league’s premier goal scorers.