Record-breaker Martinez thrilled to add MLS champion to long list of 2018 accolades
The Atlanta United forward had a historic season, but he values Saturday’s final victory over any individual accomplishments
Record-breaker. MVP. Golden Boot winner. Josef Martinez sure earned a lot of accolades in 2018.
But one is more important to the Venezuelan star than all of the others: MLS Cup champion.
Martinez did what he does best in Saturday night’s MLS Cup final at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, scoring the opening goal of a 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers. The goal helped Martinez earn the MLS Cup final MVP, another honor on the long list amassed this season.
There’s the MLS goal-scoring record, one which he smashed before the calendar even turned to fall. There was the regular season MVP trophy, which he won in a landslide with teammate Miguel Almiron finishing second. There was the All-Star game selection, the Best XI recognition and the consistent discussion of his place among the all-time greats.
But it’s the title of MLS Cup champion he takes the most pride in.
“I’m most happy with the cup,” Martinez said. “I think this team has had an incredible year. We have to appreciate the work of everyone this season, the players, the coaching staff, we’ve had some ups and downs as a team.
“Everyone on this team contributed something and had sacrifices. This is a win that we want to celebrate because it’s been a long year.”
The word “celebrate” was a key one for Martinez on Saturday night. As he fielded questions following his MVP performance, the forward joked that he was simply waiting for the press conference to end and for the true celebration to begin.
Saturday night’s coronation was, in many ways, built upon a foundation that began many months ago. From the moment Martinez arrived in MLS from Torino it was apparent that he was ready to become one of the top scorers to ever play in the league.
Year one was dominant, but abbreviated. Martinez tore through the league with 19 goals in just 17 starts, but that proved to be only a taste. In 2018, the forward smashed the MLS single-season goalscoring mark by August en route to finishing with 31 regular season goals. He added four more in the postseason.
The fourth and final came at the most opportune time on Saturday as a Michael Parkhurst tackle pushed the ball through the lines and to Martinez’s feet. He rounded Jeff Attinella and finished from close range, sending the crowd of over 70,000 into a craze.
The sequence has been repeated time and time again. Shoot, score, crowd goes wild. And it’s a sequence his teammates saw from the moment he stepped foot in Atlanta.
“From the first practice when I got to Atlanta from January camp, we were just doing crossing and finishing,” defender Greg Garza recalled. “I crossed the ball to Josef Martinez and he biked it from the top of the 18, upper 90.
“I just thought, ‘Jesus this guy’s a killer’. I think, in my personal opinion, he should have been MVP last year as well. He played half the games he did this year. He’s an amazing player.”
An amazing player on amazing team that just rounded out an amazing season, one that will certainly be remembered fondly over the course of time.
Martinez has found a home in Atlanta, and Atlanta has found a star in Martinez who helped provide a championship moment.
“It’s great because I was feeling a lot of pressure before this game,” he said. “My neighbors were putting flags all around my house and pushing notes under my door.
“I had a lot of pressure to deal with, but I wanted to thank everyone. The fans. They deserve it. It’s a great feeling to win this here.”