When any football fan thinks about what they love to see regularly from their favorite team, what is the first thing that would come to mind? Which is more impressive: score a Wayne Rooney overhead goal once every year, or for one player to score a tap in 11 games in a row? Certainly, there is something to be said about a goal that shows such finesse and wonders it stays with you for the rest of your life. I have such a goal that struck me as so incredible I have the video still on my phone today. The 2015-16 season was amazing not just because Leicester City won the title, but because of how they won the title. The emerging of a young star named Jamie Vardy who seemed to suddenly set the world on fire with his talent, goal-scoring ability, and runs that seem to come so quickly, you would say “offside” and turn away, only to see him slot another goal into the corner. THE goal that I will never forget came against Liverpool. In the 60th minute, Vardy was fed the ball over the top by the wondrous Algerian Riyad Mahrez. I can remember thinking “goal”, the second the ball came so sweetly off his foot. Simon Mignolet must have known he was beaten. Then watching Englishman Mark Albrighton as he walks up to Vardy with his hands on his head, giving him the look of: “Are you serious man?”
Oh yes, he meant absolutely every bit of that.
Atlanta fans this year have been treated to a montage of the same by our incredible Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez. Part of what made Vardy’s goal so impressive was that it was one of 11 that put him into the record books in the EPL, much the same way Martinez has done to the MLS this year. Atlanta truly found something unique in Martinez. With his record now standing at 11 goals in consecutive games, he has now scored 21 goals in 23 appearances so far for the 5 Stripes this season. Although many of his goals seem to come from the penalty spot, so did many of Vardy’s. That is the most common criticism heard about Martinez's goal streak, “He takes all their penalties.” True he has taken many penalties, but he takes them in such an eloquent manner that he barely misses. He takes them with that unmistakable style and the run-up to the ball that even if you have seen him take 10 penalties, there is no guess where that ball is going. When he does miss, he does not miss it twice. That shows a fiery determination not only to score but to win. It shows the burning desire to succeed and make those around him better burns within the 26-year-old Striker. It becomes that same age-old question any athlete has been asked by a coach: “Who wants the ball when the game is on the line?” We have all learned unequivocally this season that man for Atlanta United is Josef Martinez. Even with many of the goals being scored via penalty, he has had some truly spectacular goals this season.
The MLS is no longer a place where records do not matter, or should not mean as much. There have been so many phenomenal players to play in this league. Names like Rooney, Ibrahimovic, Gerrard , David Villa, Beckham, Lampard, and Kaka. I could keep adding names of players who have played in the MLS that have been at the largest clubs in the world that now play in our American Major League Soccer. NONE of those players have equaled the feat that Josef Martinez has for Atlanta this season. That is truly something that the young Martinez should be extremely proud of. Having played so spectacularly not only for the rabid fans we have here in our city, but the millions who have watched him at home as the speedy #7 has dazzled all of us. He also is not a selfish player at all. He’s had many opportunities that he has fed the ball across the box when he could have easily taken a shot. He has been the best striker this year in the MLS. The streak is not yet over, and he could add to the count later on this week when United take on Orlando for the second time in 3 weeks this Friday.
There is such excitement surrounding Atlanta this year. Even though the season perhaps did not start in textbook fashion, it does not matter how you start, only how you finish. Now there are so many fans of football in this country that have come out to cheer on their club. We now have a brand of soccer in this country that we all can be proud to call ours. Although we don’t perhaps have a Lionel Messi or a Cristiano Ronaldo, but who cares? The style that we are seeing with unreal players like Martinez is that now we have our own stars here. Even though clubs will continue to sign big name ex EPL or La Liga players, the organizations have found a way to find that raw talent that is equally as entertaining, and likewise as amazing to watch. The famous line from Gladiator comes to mind: “Are you not entertained? Are You NOT entertained?
Take a bow, Josef Martinez. You are truly something special.