Atlanta United: Gonzalo Martinez and inspiration

ATLANTA, GA JULY 21: Atlanta's Leandro González Pirez (5) hugs Gonzalo "Pity" Martínez (rear) after he scored a second half goal during the MLS match between DC United and Atlanta United FC on July 21st, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA JULY 21: Atlanta's Leandro González Pirez (5) hugs Gonzalo "Pity" Martínez (rear) after he scored a second half goal during the MLS match between DC United and Atlanta United FC on July 21st, 2019 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
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Gonzalo Martinez has stated he is ready to earn a place in the Atlanta United starting XI once again. Both he and the team are in need of inspiration.

The mentality of sport is a fascinating thing. How individuals’ performance changes based on their mental state is vast and unusual. From the confidence of the champions to the pressure-enforced crumblings of the ‘bottlers’, one’s mentality can greatly define performance, often more so than technical or athletic skill.

We often do not talk about the mentality of individual players and teams because it is difficult to quantify. How do you statistically analyse whether someone is calm under pressure? It is very different from measuring someone’s pass accuracy rate. And yet, mentality has such a major impact on proceedings of sport. It is human nature, after all.

One particular element is the importance of inspiration, those moments that inject confidence and instil an inner belief and motivation that mere words or practise or work ethic cannot. For Atlanta United, no player is in need of it more than club-record signing, Gonzalo Martinez.

‘Pity’ arrived in Atlanta this offseason. He was MLS’ record signing, tasked with replacing Miguel Almiron, who was the heart and soul, the creative champion, of the 2018 MLS Cup champions. Even for the South American Footballer of the Year, it was no easy task. And so it has proven.

Martinez has struggled greatly for form. His performances have been lacking effort and ingenuity, two things that Almiron provided in spades, and had scored just twice and provided only five assists in 20 MLS appearances prior to last weekend. His first goal did not come until May 12th, two months into the new season, against Orlando City, and he was dropped from the starting XI for the past two weeks.

In the second of those bench appearances, a crucial 2-0 win over D.C. United at the sharp end of the Eastern Conference, Martinez gave a wonderful 25-minute cameo, in which he opened the scoring with a brave, close-range header, and then teed up his namesake with a beautiful lobbed through pass for Josef to scamper onto and finish nicely. This was the Pity that was expected at the start of the season.

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This week, Martinez was asked about dropping out of head coach Frank de Boer’s starting XI:

"“There’s always ups and downs. I’m trying to show the fans what I’m about and what they can expect from me. I always want to play. I want to play every game. I train and go to the club every day to get better and play every game. It’s been my turn to be on the bench. It’s a coach’s decision. I can just give my best every time I’m called on to enter and try to earn my spot back.”"

Like Martinez, Atlanta United have trundled along this season, playing not quite as poorly as everyone may think but certainly not at the level that was expected of them at the start of the year. They have struggled to adapt to de Boer’s new style and have lacked a spark in attack, something that Martinez was supposed to provide. Both he and his team, then, are waiting for that moment of inspiration.

Perhaps the win over D.C., the late excellence from Martinez, and the fact that it moves Atlanta to within three points of Eastern leaders Philadelphia with a game in hand, can be this moment of inspiration that Martinez and his Five Stripes have been searching for all year.

Next. Atlanta United Vs D.C. United: 3 things we learned. dark

They need a spark, something to explode them into action. Martinez needs to start performing as his talent suggests he is capable of. Atlanta United are better than they are playing. And perhaps it is down to this mysterious thing called mentality.