MLS Attacking Player of the Week: Week 3 – Atlanta United star runs riot in big win

For every week of the 2018 MLS season, MLSGB will award two Player of the Week accolades to the previous gameweek’s standout performers. We will highlight one star attacking player, as well as the leading defensive performer from the last round of fixtures. The Attacking Player of the Week award can be won by strikers, wingers and advanced midfielders. While the Defensive Player of the Week award can be won by goalkeepers, defenders and defensive midfielders.

We’re three weeks into the 2018 MLS season and there is already an early frontrunner in the Golden Boot race. Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez tops the scoring charts after netting a hat-trick in Saturday’s 4-1 win over Vancouver and as a result, he is this week’s MLSGB Attacking Player of the Week. The Venezuelan striker is only 23 games into his MLS career but he has already scored four hat-tricks. Incredibly, he is just one hat-trick shy of matching the all-time league record, currently held by Stern John.

Martinez showcased why he is so lethal, in more ways than one, on Saturday evening. His first goal came from the penalty spot, after Kendall Waston was sent off for an apparent elbow following a long VAR decision just 13 minutes into the game. Then in the second-half, the Atlanta striker raced away on a counter-attack at blistering pace and finished cooly to add his second of the night. His hat-trick came in the 88th minute as he rose high to head home Andrew Carleton’s cross, rounding off an excellent display for The Five Stripes.

Martinez scored his hat-trick off the back of five total shots, while also creating one chance for a teammate. He completed 29 of his 34 of his passes on the night and will be hoping to build on his performance when Atlanta return to action away at Minnesota United in two weeks.

Martinez has now scored 23 MLS goals in 23 games, an astonishing record for a player that had never previously scored more than eight league goals in a season before 2017. He is thriving under Tata Martino’s guidance in Atlanta and is a lethal focal point for one of the league’s most dynamic attacking forces.

You can see a full statistical breakdown of his performance against Vancouver below, which highlights just how much of the field he likes to cover. He looks to drag defenders out of position by coming deep to collect the ball at times, which makes him virtually impossible to man-mark. His explosive pace on the break means Atlanta always have an outlet when defending set-pieces, and that was demonstrated again on his second goal of the night.

A detailed look at Josef Martinez’s display in the 4-1 win over Vancouver on Saturday (Stats via @StatsZone)

Don’t miss: MLS Defensive Player of the Week: Week 3

Martinez and his Atlanta teammates sit third in the Eastern Conference after three weeks, having picked up six points following two big wins. They opened the season with that shock 4-0 defeat in Houston but have bounced back well in front of their own fans against DC United and Vancouver. They will hope to put in a better display on the road at Minnesota next time out.

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MLS Preview and Prediction: Atlanta United vs LA Galaxy

Major League Soccer: Atlanta United vs LA Galaxy

Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Wednesday, September 20 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST)

Match Odds: Atlanta 4/9 – Draw 15/4 – LA Galaxy 5/1

Atlanta United vs LA Galaxy: Preview

Atlanta United take on LA Galaxy for the first time ever on Wednesday night, in a game that could essentially end the Galaxy’s 2017 season.

The Five Stripes are in good form and have enjoyed a stellar debut season in Major League Soccer. They can move a step closer to confirming their playoff spot with a win here, while probably ending the Galaxy’s hopes in the process.

Atlanta have gone unbeaten through four games, scoring 15 goals in the process. Their move to the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium has proved seamless too. They’ve not lost at their new home and Wednesday’s match will be the fourth of six consecutive home games.

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Victory on Wednesday would see Atlanta move ahead of Columbus Crew and into fourth place in the East. That would leave them on course to secure homefield advantage in the playoffs – something Tata Martino will be hoping to confirm.

The LA Galaxy team held a behind-closed-doors meeting after Saturday’s heavy defeat. That only happens when a team is in crisis. And make no mistake about it, the Galaxy are in a crisis. Jobs are on the line and players will be axed at the end of the campaign if they don’t improve.

Sigi Schmid’s job was to turn their fortunes around and get them into a playoff position come the end of the regular season. But he has not been able to do that, even with the expensive DP addition of Jonathan Dos Santos.

LA have gone 1-5-2 since Schmid took over the reigns. They are nine points outside the playoff spots in the West and don’t look like a team on the up.

Defeat to Atlanta on Wednesday night would essentially end the Galaxy’s season. It would leave them with a nine-point gap to make up over their final five games. But they still have to travel to Sporting KC, Houston and FC Dallas on the final day.

Atlanta United vs LA Galaxy: Team News

Atlanta United will welcome back centre-back Leandro Gonzalez Pirez after he served his one-game suspension. Zach Loyd is out for the season. Greg Garza is listed as questionable after missing Saturday’s match with a hamstring problem.

LA Galaxy will once again be able to call on Jermaine Jones after he served his suspension. He will expect to come into a side that could be drastically changed after Saturday’s crushing loss to Toronto. Robbie Rogers, Sebastian Lletget, Baggio Husidic and Pele Van Aanholt are all out for the season. Bradley Diallo left Sunday’s game in the first half with a hamstring injury and won’t feature here. Daniel Steres is also expected to miss out.

Atlanta United vs LA Galaxy: Key Points

Atlanta United’s last five: L/D/W/W/D

LA Galaxy’s last five: L/L/W/D/L

Key Stat: Atlanta have scored 13 goals in three games since moving to Mercedes-Benz Stadium. That’s the same amount as LA Galaxy have scored in their last 12 MLS outings in total.

Key Player: Josef Martinez – The Venezuelan striker is hot right now. He has scored back-to-back hat-tricks for Atlanta and has seven in his last three games. His treble against Orlando on Saturday took his season total to 16 in 14 matches. He’s only three goals off David Villa in the race for the Golden Boot and will hope to close that gap further with another strong display here.

Atlanta United vs LA Galaxy: Prediction

Atlanta United 3-1 LA Galaxy – The Galaxy need to respond from Saturday’s humiliating 4-0 home loss. However, they couldn’t have really picked a worse place to have to go than Atlanta. The Five Stripes have been scoring for fun and should pick apart a Galaxy defence that can’t stop conceding. You would assume LA will show some spirit as they aim to impress Sigi Schmid enough to keep their jobs into next season. But this one looks like it should end in a home win, with Atlanta set to move up to fourth in the East.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Atlanta United vs New England Revolution

Major League Soccer: Atlanta United vs New England Revolution

Mercedes-Benz Stadium – Wednesday, September 13 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST)

Match Odds: Atlanta 3/5 – Draw 3/1 – New England 4/1

Atlanta United vs New England Revolution: Preview

Atlanta United face New England Revolution at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Wednesday night, in what is a pivotal battle for the Eastern Conference’s playoff picture.

The hosts started life in their new stadium with a convincing 3-0 win over FC Dallas on Sunday night. The venue may have changed but the Five Stripes’ impressive home record continues. They have not lost in seven at home, scoring in every single home match this season.

Tata Martino will have been especially delighted with Sunday’s win as it ended a run of four games without victory. Atlanta sit sixth coming into Wednesday’s game, with this being one of their games in hand over the sides above them.

They are four points ahead of the Revolution in eighth place. But New England have played two games more so this is a huge game for the visitors.

The glaring problem for the Revs is that they haven’t won an away game all season. They are the only MLS team that can say that this year, not that you’ll hear New England fans voicing that fact with anything but a sense of despair.

But as things stand heading into the final stretch, the Revolution are still in a position to make the playoffs. Their home form is strong and they have put together a good run of form in recent weeks, winning five of their last eight.

They know they must start winning on the road to give themselves a realistic chance of making the postseason. But doing so at Atlanta United’s shiny new home, with over 40,000 fans roaring on poses an even trickier task than usual for the visitors.

This will be the first ever clash between the two sides. They will meet at Gillette Stadium in the reverse fixture on September 30. That will be Atlanta’s first road game after their current six-match home stretch ends in a few weeks.

Atlanta United vs New England Revolution: Team News

Atlanta United remain without goalkeeper Alec Kann. Kenwyne Jones remains a doubt with a knee problem. Tata Martino might make a few changes to his starting lineup, with Saturday’s game against Orlando City in mind.

New England Revolution remain without Kelyn Rowe. Lee Nguyen and Diego Fagundez recovered from knocks in time to face Montreal on Saturday and should be ready to go again here.

Atlanta United vs New England Revolution: Key Points

Atlanta United’s last five: D/D/L/D/W

New England Revolution’s last five: W/L/L/W/W

Key Stat: New England Revolution are the team in MLS yet to win an away game this season. They have gone 0-10-3 away from Gillette Stadium in 2017.

Key Player: Josef Martinez – The pacey Atlanta forward has struggled to get a consistent run of games as a result of injuries all season. But when he’s played, he’s looked dangerous. He has ten goals and one assist in 12 games this term and will look to hurt the Revs defence, so long as he plays here.

Atlanta United vs New England Revolution: Prediction

Atlanta United 2-0 New England Revolution – While the Revolution have looked like a solid outfit in recent weeks, their terrible road record looks unlikely to end here. The Five Stripes are in high spirits. They’ve got an incredible new stadium to play in and will be looking to put on a show here. A win on Wednesday would put them into a seriously strong position, as far as playoff hopes go. That’s how we see it going. Home win.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Orlando City vs Atlanta United

Major League Soccer: Orlando City vs Atlanta United

Orlando City Stadium – Friday, July 21 – 19:00 ET (00:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Orlando City 11/8 – Draw 5/2 – Atlanta United 17/10

Orlando City vs Atlanta United: Preview

Orlando City take on Atlanta United for the first time in history on Friday night. The two sides are separated by just a point in the Eastern Conference, so this could prove to be a real six-pointer.

Neither side has played a game for over two weeks as a result of the Gold Cup break. Atlanta come into Friday’s game in fourth, one point and two places higher than Orlando.

The Lions know the pressure is on them to get a win in front of their own fans. They can leapfrog Atlanta with a victory and put themselves well on track for a first-ever playoff spot.

Orlando City fell 3-1 at home to Toronto in their last game before the break. That result stretched their home winless run to four games, with a 3-1 US Open Cup defeat to Miami FC included.

Jason Kreis has had a long time to prepare for this game. A victory will put the Lions back on track. A defeat would leave them in trouble at a vital stage of the season.

Atlanta should come into Friday’s match in good spirits. They picked up a 4-2 win over San Jose before the two-week break. That victory came just days after they won 2-0 at Columbus Crew.

Despite being an expansion side, Atlanta have impressed from the word ‘go’. They have a strong squad, with difference-makers across the midfield and attack.

They will undoubtedly fancy their chances of leaving Orlando with all three points. Although even a draw would leave the visitors in a prime position to secure postseason soccer at the first attempt.

This will be the first ever meeting between the two sides. Although given the attacking nature of both teams, this has the potential to be a thriller. Orlando and Atlanta have goals in them, so you don’t want to miss this one.

Orlando City vs Atlanta United: Team News

Cyle Larin was called up to the Canada squad for their quarter-final clash with Jamaica on Thursday night so he will be unavailable for Orlando. Rafael Ramos is still ruled out through injury. Jose Aja is one booking away from suspension and will need to watch his step.

Atlanta United are set to see Brad Guzan between the sticks for the first time. The long-time Premier League goalkeeper was released from USMNT duty after the group stages of the Gold Cup, so is expected to start here. The visitors will be without Romario Williams, who has been at the Gold Cup with the Jamaica squad for the past few weeks. They will still be without injured trio Jacob Peterson, Kenwyne Jones and Alec Kann.

Orlando City vs Atlanta United: Key Points

Orlando City’s last five: D/D/L/W/L

Atlanta United’s last five: W/L/W/W/W

Key Stat: Atlanta are in the best form of their season, having won three-straight MLS games. They have scored seven in that time, conceding twice.

Key Player: Josef Martinez – The Atlanta striker has been excellent when fit this season. He netted twice in the win over San Jose last time out and should be raring to go here. His pace will cause Orlando all kinds of problems on the counter-attack.

Orlando City vs Atlanta United: Prediction

Orlando City 1-3 Atlanta United – Both sides know a win here would put them in a really strong position in the East. However, it’s tough to predict how both sides will cope after a long break from action. Atlanta have goals in them and will look to pick Orlando off on the break. While the loss of Cyle Larin will take away a real threat for the Lions. Atlanta to make it three wins on the spin.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Atlanta United vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – Atlanta United vs. Columbus Crew SC
Venue: Bobby Dodd Stadium – Saturday, June 17 – 19:00 ET (00:00 BST)
Match Odds: Atlanta 19/20 – Draw 13/5 – Columbus 5/2

Match Preview

Atlanta United welcome Columbus Crew to Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday evening for their first ever MLS clash, with the return of Josef Martinez offering a major boost to the home side.

Atlanta have picked up their form a little in recent weeks, winning a third consecutive home game with Wednesday’s 3-2 US Open Cup success of Charleston Battery. Their away form remains a major concern at this stage, but the fact that Saturday’s game is in front of their own fans will fill them with confidence.

Tata Martino’s side are still adapting to life in MLS as well as learning his tactical style of play but the signs are encouraging and the expansion side know a win on Saturday would move them back into the playoff spots in the East – for a few hours at least.

Columbus enter the weekend just four points in front of Atlanta and have lost four of their last five, including the shock 1-0 Open Cup loss at FC Cincinnati on Wednesday evening.

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Gregg Berhalter’s side are expected to seal a top six finish this season but complacency looks to be setting in at a pivotal stage of the campaign.

Crew SC have only picked up six points from a possible 24 on the road this season, so improving their away record has to be a priority for the remainder of the season.

Team News

Jacob Peterson remains out for Atlanta United although Josef Martinez is back and set for his first MLS start since the 4-0 win over Chicago in Week 3.

Columbus will be without Nico Naess, Ben Swanson and Gaston Sauro for Saturday’s trip to Georgia. Kekuta Manneh is listed as ‘questionable’ and is unlikely to feature.

Key Points

Atlanta’s form: D/W/W/L/L

Columbus’s form: W/L/L/W/L

Key Stat: Columbus Crew have lost four straight matches in MLS and the US Open Cup, being outscored 10-2 in that time.

Key Player: Josef Martinez – The Atlanta forward marked his long-awaited return from injury with a goal on his first start since March in Wednesday’s Open Cup win over Charleston. Including preseason, he now has ten goals in eight appearances for Atlanta and will look to take down Columbus here.

Score Prediction

Atlanta United 3-1 Columbus Crew – The return of Martinez makes Atlanta much more of a threat and his return should see Atlanta pick up a third-straight MLS win at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Columbus have struggled away from home but will fancy their chances of finding the net against a leaky Atlanta defence that hasn’t kept a clean sheet since April.

Is Josef Martinez set to break MLS goalscoring record after blistering start?

Atlanta United might be an expansion franchise but they are not wasting any time in showing Major League Soccer who they are and what they are going to do this season. They are going to score goals, and lots of them.

We’re only three weeks into the new season but Atlanta United have already scored 11 goals and have put six points on the board. They opened with a crushing 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls but have since posted back-to-back wins over Minnesota United and the Chicago Fire, winning those games 6-1 and 4-0, respectively.

While the whole team have been impressive from back to front, it’s hard to look past 23-year-old Venezuelan DP Josef Martinez, who has scored five goals in his first 262 minutes of MLS action – an average of one goal every 52 minutes.

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The striker is gifted with blistering pace and is ripping defences apart every time he makes one of his darting runs towards goal. He is helped by the fact Atlanta have built a squad full of creativity in behind Martinez, with fellow DPs Miguel Almiron and Hector Villalba both able to provide inch-perfect passes in behind opposition defences.

Take a look at his first goal against Chicago below. The pass from Almiron is perfect but Martinez shows great intelligence to stay onside before his composure allows him to round Jorge Bava in the Chicago goal with one touch before finishing into an empty net.

Fast forward to the 82nd minute and Martinez scored an even more impressive second in a similar manner to the first. His positioning is perfect, his acceleration is sublime and the finish is incredible. The three stages for the goal happen so fast but the young striker makes it look easy.

He is splitting defenders with ease and it’s seemingly impossible for team’s to adjust. If you get too tight to Martinez, you risk leaving too much space on the edge of the penalty area, where the likes of Almiron, Villalba and Yamil Asad will wreak havoc, as they have already shown.

The single-season goalscoring record in MLS history is 27, a total that Bradley Wright-Phillips (2014), Chris Wondolowski (2012) and Roy Lassiter (1996) have all reached before. Based on the small sample of three games, Martinez is on course to net 57 goals in 2017.

Of course that number is astronomical and relies on Martinez staying healthy for all 34 regular season games, as well as keeping up his rate of 1.6 goals-per-game over the entire length of the season.

When BWP scored 27 goals three seasons ago, he did so after firing in just one in the first seven games of the season. Martinez is already on five and will continue to put big numbers up until defenders try and find a way to somehow stop him shredding them through the middle.

Don’t be surprised to see him become the first player to reach 28 goals in a regular season campaign this year.