Sports

Josef Martinez urged to keep scoring goals to ‘cover up’ off-field issues at Atlanta United

Former United States international striker Charlie Davies believes Josef Martinez can save his Atlanta United career by continuing to score goals.

Martinez is suspended for this weekend’s match against Toronto FC due to what Atlanta United described as ‘conduct detrimental to the team’. The Venezuela international is expected to return to club activities on Monday.

A report from The Athletic’s Felipe Cardenas stated the suspension is the result of an altercation between Martinez and Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda that took place following a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

Cardenes reported that Martinez walked into the locker room after the match – in which he came off the bench and scored his side’s only goal of the game – and, in frustration, kicked over a catering table. Pineda emerged from a separate room and confronted Martinez, with the pair needing to be physically separated.

Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda addressed the media on Thursday to clarify the incident, insisting it never became physical and that he would happily accept Martinez back into the fold.

Martinez’s contract at the club runs through 2024, but given his falling out with Pineda and cold relationships with previous head coaches Gabriel Heinze and Frank de Boer, it’s difficult to see the 29-year-old staying around that long.

However, Martinez remains Atlanta United’s top scorer this season and in franchise history. According to Davies, goals can heal all for a striker.

“If Josef is the problem, goals cover that problem up, right?,” Davies said on MLSsoccer.com’s Extra Time podcast. “As long as you’re producing, no matter who you are, where you are, what you do – I’ve seen it with my own damn eyes. If a striker is scoring goals, you can get away with anything, you can get away with things.

“This statement always remains true: As soon as a goalscorer stops scoring goals and the results stop coming, guess who the fingers get pointed at first? Guess who’s not allowed to get away with what they were able to get away with first? That striker.”

Martinez has eight goals in 22 appearances (12 starts) in MLS play this season, scoring at a rate of once every 166.13 minutes.

However, his goals have been unable to inspire Atlanta United to any sort of consistency, with the Five Stripes sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference and six points adrift of the MLS Cup Playoffs spots ahead of this weekend’s clash with TFC.

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