An MLS star defender of the past and MLS star forward of the present were among the names that landed on the league’s “25 Greatest” released in celebration of its 25th anniversary.
And they’re names that Atlanta United fans know well: forward Josef Martinez, along with club vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra, were selected for inclusion on the list by a panel of nearly 200 league experts from across North America.
Bocanegra, considered “one of the best pure defenders MLS has ever seen” by the selection panel, enjoyed 2 stints in the league—first with the Chicago Fire from 2000-2003, then with Chivas USA in 2013 and 2014—as part of a career that included stops in the Premier League, Ligue 1 and the Scottish premiership. He was a 2-time MLS Best XI pick, twice its defender of the year, and a 2-time U.S. Open Cup champion. The former U.S. international also won 114 caps and was captain of the USMNT for 6 years.
Martinez’s story is still being written, but it’s a familiar one. The former Torino winger, originally sent to Atlanta on a loan deal with an option to buy, quickly became one of the faces of the league as a member of a lethal attack that featured Tito Villalba, Miguel Almiron and Julian Gressel. He currently sits at 77 goals in just 84 appearances, including his remarkable 2018 campaign that saw him break a league record with 31, since broken by Carlos Vela. A torn ACL in the 2020 season opener against Nashville SC sidelined him for the year, but all eyes will be on the Venezuelan as he prepares for a return in 2021.
The full list of MLS’ 25 Greatest players can be found here.