MARIETTA, Ga. — Gonzalo “Pity” Martínez, Atlanta United’s blockbuster January signing from River Plate, spoke with reporters at the Children’s Healthcare Training Ground on Tuesday. Martínez does not address the media often, but when he does, he is forthright with his responses to questions.
The 2018 South America Football of the Year and Copa Libertadores champion has not fully adapted to his new team and country, nor is he fully match fit. The Argentine showed improvement in Atlanta’s 3-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on Sunday, and on Tuesday he implored fans and media to show patience as he works to raise his level of play.
Here is a complete transcript of Martínez’s answers, relayed through an interpreter.
Martínez on being more comfortable in the Sporting Kansas City game:
“Yeah, I agree. I think myself and the team, we felt well in that game. I think that’s the version of Atlanta we want to see. So now we’re really focused on this next game and keeping that same version of Atlanta going forward.”
On whether his transition to MLS has been frustrating:
“No, not at all. I think, you know, it’s taken me a little bit to get adjusted to the soccer and also physically, just trying to get up to the level that I want to be at. But I think it’s not easy to adapt. It’s a different kind of soccer. A lot of the teams sit back and play very defensive, so I’m just trying to do what I can to help the team and my teammates.”
On his conditioning and the adjustment to playing on artificial turf:
“I think at this point I’m probably 90 percent physically, which is important for me. Obviously I’m working hard to try and get to where I want to be.
“It’s taken me a little time to get used to the turf at Mercedes-Benz, mostly because we train on natural grass every day, so then when we have a game on turf on the the weekends, it’s a little different. The ball rolls differently. So I’m doing my best to get used to it.”
On what kind of performances he wants to show media and fans:
“Yeah, I’m always very critical of myself, even if you look at interviews I’ve done in the past in Argentina, in games when I’ve scored goals, you know I’ve made it known that if I didn’t play well, and if I wasn’t happy with my performance then, you know, I’ll say that. So here, coming here I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but we’re only eight to 10 games into the league, so the adaptation process is going to take some time.
“But as you said, the Argentine media who’s saying that I was going to come score five goals every game here, you know, those were their words, not mine. I never said that. I knew it was going to be a difficult challenge, and you know, I felt good in the last game, and I’m just doing my best to get up to the level that I want to be at.”
On the differences between Argentina and the United States, culturally and in terms of media access to players:
“I think it’s a little strange. I think in this league they lose a little of this intimacy or the privacy of the players sometimes, and I think if the league wants to continue growing and be considered, you know, among one of the top leagues in the world then they have to respect the privacy of the players more sometimes.
“But I know it’s a new country, it’s a different culture, so it’s all different for me. The other day, or after one of the games I had a confrontation with one of your colleagues in the media because he wanted me to talk, and I thought he didn’t show me the right amount of respect. But as I said, it’s something new, and I know I have to get used to it. It’s just different.”
On Ezequiel Barco’s forthcoming absence for the U-20 World Cup:
“We’re going to miss him, for sure. Ezequiel’s a great player, but he has this great opportunity to go play a World Cup with his national team, so we wish him the best and we hope that he can enjoy it. But, you know, other guys are going to have to step up. I think when Tito has gone in and played in our midfield he’s done a really good job.”
On potentially being the designated taker of free kicks while Barco is gone:
“I’ve always liked taking free kicks, but it’s always about what’s best for the good of the team and whoever in that moment is feeling the most confident. So if Barco is feeling confident or Tito — he hits the ball well also — if they’re feeling confident in that moment, then they can take those opportunities as well. If Barco’s not here, then maybe there’s a bigger role for me to do that, but it’s always about what’s best for the team.”
On his difficult start to 2019, and whether he takes inspiration from the difficult start he had at River Plate:
“I think I train and I play every day just to try and get better, so I think you guys have to remain calm. You know, maybe what you guys are expecting of me isn’t the kind of player that I think of myself. But, you know, it’s very early in the season. As I said, I’m just working to get to the player I want to be.
“You know, Atlanta has shown in a short time that it’s a great club. They’re coming off winning a championship, but we know soccer’s difficult. Even though it’s a great club with great players, it’s a difficult game. It’s very difficult to win the league every season. So we all just have to remain calm.”