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Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez extends record, captures MLS Golden Boot

Jun 2, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) celebrates after scoring a hat trick on a penalty kick against the Philadelphia Union during the second half at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports

After losing its grip on the Supporters’ Shield by suffering a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Toronto FC, Atlanta United FC is still searching for its first trophy as a club.

However, one member of the team is bringing some hardware home to the King Peach. Josef Martinez clinched the Major League Soccer Golden Boot on Sunday. The 25-year-old Venezuelan striker’s 31 goals are a single-season record in MLS.

He finished the regular season with a goals-per-game average of 0.912, which was among the highest in leagues across the globe. In comparison, Lionel Messi had a 0.944 goals-per-game average for Barcelona this past season and Mo Salah had a 0.889 average for Liverpool.

With Martinez leading the way, Atlanta became just the second club in MLS history to have scored 70 or more goals in back-to-back seasons. In 54 appearances over two seasons for the Five Stripes, Martinez has racked up 50 goals and seven assists.

Before Martinez shattered it, the MLS single-season scoring record was owned by three players. Roy Lassiter, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Chris Wondolowski had each scored 27 goals in a season. Martinez scored his 28th goal of this season on Aug. 24 during a 2-1 win for the Five Stripes in Orlando.

After scoring 14 goals over nine contests from June 30 to Aug. 24, Martinez went into a bit of a drought, scoring just twice over Atlanta’s next seven matches. He finally found the net again Sunday, converting on a penalty kick — his eighth of the season – in the 77th minute.

Martinez proved to be a versatile scorer this season. In addition to his eight PK’s, he scored 10 goals with his head, seven with his right foot and six with his left foot. Martinez had seven more goals than last year’s Golden Boot winner, Chicago’s Nemanja Nikolic, and nearly doubled Dwayne De Rosario’s total from 2011, when just 16 goals was enough to win the MLS scoring title.

The Five Stripes’ forward also broke the MLS record for career hat tricks, notching his sixth three-goal performance at home on July 21 during a win against D.C. United.

 

Martinez began his soccer career with a club in his native country, Caracas FC. After scoring eight goals in 36 appearances for Caracas, Martinez went to Europe, where he played for teams in Switzerland and Italy. He scored four goals for BSC Young Boys, eight goals for FC Thun and seven goals for Torino. Martinez also has 44 caps for the Venezuelan national team.

In 2017, Martinez arrived in Atlanta on loan from Torino, but the Five Stripes front office wound up buying him outright on a transfer soon after.

Atlanta United is the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. They will face the highest advancing seed out of D.C. United, NYCFC, Philadelphia Union and Columbus Crew on Nov. 4.

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