Atlanta United is stacking the points with their 4-1 win against Vancouver Whitecaps FC and another 1-0 victory against Minnesota United FC on March 31. Josef Martinez has carried the club the last few matches, while the new roster of players found their rhythm. The forward was voted the Alcatel Major League Soccer Player of the Week by the North American Soccer Reporters (NASR) for Week 3 following his hat trick in Atlanta’s 4-1 win against Vancouver. He proved a mighty weapon against the rough play of Vancouver that costs the Canadian club two yellow cards in the first half.
“As a forward I take this not only a passion, but as my job, so I take it as my responsibility to score goals and when I’m not scoring goals….I’m not doing my job,” said Martinez. “When you come to a new league you’re coming in with a certain mindset and you want to be successful. ….I’m happy with how I’m playing and more importantly happy I’m helping the team.”
Martinez scored the opening goal of the match with a penalty kick in the 14th minute. Then Vancouver netted a score for Atlanta United by kicking the ball into Atlanta’s goal bumping up the score 2-0. After several failed attempts to pass the ball in front of the box and then score from the sides, Martinez secured the lead with another goal in the 60th minute. He ran the ball down the top, centered it and fired right past Vancouver’s goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic. Martinez rounded out his hat-trick in the 88th minute when Andrew Carleton sent a cross to the box that Martinez finished off with a header bringing the score 4-1. This is Martinez’s fourth hat-trick of his MLS career, making him one hat-trick away from tying the all-time record for most hat-tricks in an MLS career.
The victory against Vancouver looked like the perfect setup for a repeat of last season where Martinez carried the team and ended up with an injury leaving the club to reorganize without the striker. Things proved different during the Atlanta United FC vs. Minnesota United FC match when Tito Villalba scored the first and only goal of the game in the 3rd minute. The team won 1-0 despite losing defender Leandro González Pirez in the 38th minute after he received his second yellow card. Head Coach Tata Martino said strong defense landed them the win.
“Playing down a man is difficult in any league, but I think in this league it’s particularly difficult,” Martino said. “I think we were organized defensively and that’s what allowed us to get the result.”
Atlanta United FC plays LAFC on April 7 at 5 p.m. at Mercedes-Benz Stadium