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Josef Martínez brace gives Atlanta United 2-0 win over Chicago Fire

Martínez has five goals from his past three games.

ATLANTA — Josef Martínez scored two first-half goals, and Atlanta United defeated the Chicago Fire 2-0 in front of announced crowd of 67,502 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday night.

Attendance for Atlanta-Chicago bested Saturday’s Uefa Champions League Final by 4,230 spectators, if all the announced figures are to be believed.

The victory ended a stretch of eight games in 28 days for Atlanta. Frank de Boer’s team picked up 18 points from a 6-2-0 record and outscored opponents 13-3 during that period.

“I think really, they need a little break right now,” de Boer said during his postgame press conference. “Normally you think, ‘OK, we’re going to continue in this rhythm,’ but I think they really deserve a break.” 

The Five Stripes scored early, finishing a skilled attacking move that came in transition. On 12 minutes, Franco Escobar carried the ball down the right flank, across midfield and into Atlanta’s attacking third. Escobar and Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez linked up on a give-and-go that sprang El Pity free to cut inside. After evading two defenders. Pity Martínez played a delicate pass to slip Josef Martínez through on goal. The Venezuelan was clinical with his one-v-one chance against Chicago goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm.

With four minutes remaining in the first half, Josef Martínez picked up his brace through pure individual effort. Waiting for a pass from Dion Pereira as the A-T-L viking clap thumped throughout the Benz, he posted up on Chicago centerback Francisco Calvo and broke loose with the ball for an uncontested sprint toward Kronholm. Again, Josef did not miss. Kronholm got a piece of the shot, but not enough to keep it out.

Jun 1, 2019; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) scores a goal against Chicago Fire goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm (27) during the first half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

After scoring five goals in his first 11 league games this season, the 2018 Major League Soccer Most Valuable Player has five goals from his past three games.

“I feel good,” Josef Martínez told reporters in the Atlanta locker room. “I think the team played well. It was important because we played against a good team, a team that’s been playing well lately, and tonight they came here to play. So it was against a tough opponent.”

“That’s just how it is as a player,” he continued. “Sometimes you don’t score, sometimes you’ll score 15 goals in 15 games. But the most important thing is you can never get down on yourself as a player. You just have to keep fighting, keep working hard, have confidence in yourself. So we know we had a bad start to this season, and now we’ve started to pick it up and the goals are coming.”

Calvo had the best look at goal for Chicago (4-6-6, 18 points). He found a free header in the box off a set piece in the 21st minute. The whipped ball from Nicolás Gaitán was slightly behind Calvo, and the former Minnesota United defender could not direct it on frame from eight yards.

Atlanta (8-5-2, 26 points) now has time to catch its breath. The Five Stripes are off until a U.S. Open Cup game at the Charleston Battery on June 11. Their next MLS contest comes June 26 at Toronto FC.

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