MARIETTA, Ga. — Josef Martínez will miss Atlanta United’s important game at New York City FC Wednesday. But, the injury he suffered during Saturday’s 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes is not as bad as originally feared.
Manager Frank de Boer said the team still does not have a timeline for Martínez’s recovery, but described the player as “day-to-day” and not in danger of being out longterm.
“You predict the worst at that moment or you think the worst, so I was predicting maybe four weeks out or something like that,” de Boer told reporters Monday. “Right now it doesn’t look so bad, but it’s quite early to say. We have a good feeling that hopefully he can return quicker than we thought.
“He still has pain, which means there is something wrong. Hopefully he can return quicker than we expected.”
Late in the second half against San Jose, Martínez collided with a teammate and fell awkwardly, twisting his knee and ankle. Atlanta’s medical staff examined Martínez, who initially attempted to remain in the game. He was forced to hobble off in the 79th minute and went to the locker room on a stretcher.
De Boer told reporters an initial test revealed Martínez does not have ligament damage and “nothing is broken.” Martínez was still on crutches Monday morning.
Martínez is a leader on the field, and his goal-scoring record since joining the Five Stripes in 2017 is unmatched by anyone in Major League Soccer. In 88 regular-season and playoff games, he has 80 goals. That includes 26 goals in 28 games this season. Martínez had scored in a record 15 consecutive MLS games before Saturday. He holds MLS’ single-season goals record, and the league’s career record for hat tricks. Martínez is, without a doubt, Atlanta’s most important player.
“You cannot replace that,” de Boer said. “You need that. It means that other players have to step up, other guys who will replace him. I have to deal with it. I can’t be sitting crying in the corner knowing that he’s not there. I’m still positive.”
NYCFC leads Atlanta by four points in Major League Soccer’s Eastern Conference. Both teams have three games remaining in the regular season and meet at Yankee Stadium Wednesday night.
De Boer mentioned Brandon Vazquez and Héctor “Tito” Villalba as candidates to start against NYCFC. As for who is more likely to get the nod: “You will see on Wednesday.”