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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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.

Five facts that prove how bad Everton’s season has been under Roberto Martinez

Everton have today sacked manager Roberto Martinez at the end of what has been a thoroughly disappointing season for the Toffees.

The Spaniard, who had three years left on his contract before today’s departure, has been relieved of his duties before the club’s final game of the season at home to Norwich on Sunday, with David Unsworth and Joe Royle set to take control of that game.

Martinez was appointed as Everton manager in 2013 and enjoyed a fine first season, leading the club to a fifth-placed finish with a record Premier League points tally of 72.

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But things have only worsened since the end of his first campaign, with the Toffees on course for their lowest league finish since 2004 and here are five facts that prove how bad a year it has been for the Merseyside club.

1. Home discomforts

Everton have picked up just 20 points from their 18 home games this season – their worst return in the club’s Premier League history, regardless of Sunday’s result against Norwich at Goodison Park. Their 20-point haul at home is also the joint-second worst return in Premier League this year, as only Aston Villa have picked up less (11).

2. Fortress? What fortress?

The Toffees have suffered eight home defeats this season, and another loss on Sunday would equal the club’s worst return in club history – nine home losses. The club lost only once at home in David Moyes’ final season in charge in 2012/13.

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3. Missed opportunities

Everton have dropped a total of 37 points from winning positions over the past two seasons. They have dropped 18 this season, with only Tottenham (20) and Liverpool (19) dropping more. While they dropped 19 points from winning positions last season, which was the most in the Premier League.

4. Merseyside misery

Everton’s 4-0 loss to Liverpool on April 20 was the club’s joint-worst Merseyside derby defeat since November 1982. They also lost 4-0 to Liverpool in Martinez’s first season in charge so he failed to really deliver in the biggest game of all.

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5. Leaky defence

Everton have conceded 55 Premier League goals this season – their most since letting in 57 in 2003/04. Their 3-0 defeat to Sunderland on Wednesday night saw the club concede three goals in back-to-back Premier League away games for the first time in seven years. They have now kept just one clean sheet in their last 12 games and the new manager will need to work on the defensive problems immediately.

Arsenal suffer blow as Atletico looking to complete move for £25m striker

Atletico Madrid are looking to beat Arsenal to the signing of highly rated FC Porto striker Jackson Martinez, according to A Bola.

The news comes after Juventus manager Massimo Allegri confirmed that Atletico striker Mario Mandzukic will make the move to Juventus in a deal worth up to €18 million, leaving Atletico a little bit light in the striker department.

It was said last week that AC Milan had agreed to pay the €35 million release clause in Martinez’s contract, with a Milan club doctor heading to Chile – where the 28-year-old forward is playing in the Copa America with Colombia – to complete a medical.

Though that doesn’t appear to have happened and Atletico Madrid are now looking to pounce.

Arsenal have been strongly linked with the Porto captain with Martinez previously admitting he was a boyhood Gunners fan: “I cheered for Arsenal when I was a kid – I love their style of play,” he said back in 2014.

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Martinez told A Bola: “Arsenal are a great team, playing in one of the best leagues in the world.”

Atletico Madrid have been known to do swift business with FC Porto in the past, with Radamel Falcao making the move from Portugal to the Spanish capital back in 2011.

Both Atletico Madrid and Arsenal can offer Champions League football after finishing third in their respective leagues, whereas AC Milan have failed to qualify for European football for the second season in a row.

That would imply Martinez has a choice to make between both Atletico and the Gunners, but any decision is likely to be made after he returns from the Copa America.

Should Jackson Martinez look to sign for Atletico Madrid or Arsenal?

Spurs ‘closing in’ on £28m rated goal-machine

Tottenham Hotspur are closing in on £28 million-rated FC Porto goal machine, Jackson Martinez, according to Fichajes.net.

Martinez has attracted the attention of clubs all over Europe after another impressive season in which he has scored 20 league goals in 28 games.

The Colombian forward is rated at £28.16 million by transfermarket.co.uk and Fichajes.net have reported that he is close on a deal which would see him move to the North London club.

Spurs boss, Mauricio Pochettino, is expected to sign a goalscorer after another disappointing season where his side have missed out on Champions League football.

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A striker of Martinez’s caliber will no doubt help fan-favourite, Harry Kane, to develop even further after he became the first Spurs player to net 30 goals in a season since Gary Lineker.

If Pochettino can strengthen his squad again this summer Spurs will have a good chance of battling against their competitors in their search for consistent Champions League football.

All parties involved at Spurs may be sceptical about spending around £30 million on a player after the signings of Erik Lamela and Roberto Soldado following Gareth Bale’s transfer were deemed as ‘flops’, but it will be interesting to see if the club pursue Martinez.

Is Jackson Martinez a player Spurs need and will Pochettino make marquee signings this summer?

Everton boss heaps praise on Premier League’s ‘revelationary’ Saints

Everton boss Roberto Martinez has given great credit to Ronald Koeman’s Southampton side ahead of the Toffees clash with the Saints on Saturday, insisting they have been a “revelation” in the Premier League this season.

Southampton are still chasing Champions League football with just eight games to go and head to Goodison Park looking for another victory on Saturday afternoon.

Everton have had a hugely disappointing campaign by their standards and this time last year they found themselves in the same position Southampton are currently in – six points adrift of the top four with eight games to go.

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The Toffees ended up finishing fifth and earned a place in the UEFA Europa League, a competition they have thrived in this season but Martinez has heaped praise on Saturday’s opponents.

“The Saints have had a fantastic campaign, currently sitting just a point behind Liverpool in fifth place,” Martinez told the Liverpool Echo.

“We are facing a difficult side of the weekend. In my eyes they are the revelation team of the season.

“I will be very very surprised if Southampton don’t qualify for Europe and don’t finish in the top five.

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“They are very flexible in how they approach games tactically. They have foreign players who have come in and performed so well and that tells you a lot about the environment they have. It’s very strong.

“They are physically really strong, well structured and have creativity with their  forward play. Defensively too they have the best record in the league and that’s why they’ve been so competitive in every game they go into.”

The Saints beat Everton 3-0 at St Mary’s in the reverse fixture back in December and Roberto Martinez will be hoping his side can earn a result this time around after back-to-back league wins.

Do you agree with Roberto Martinez? Have Southampton been a revelation this season?