Atlanta United: Josef Martinez ACL tear ends season?

Atlanta United, Josef Martinez (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)
Atlanta United, Josef Martinez (Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images) /

Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez will miss the entire 2020 MLS season after tearing his ACL. Does this catastrophic injury end the Five Stripes’ season before it has even begun?

During the 63rd minute of Atlanta United’s opening match in against MLS expansion side, Nashville SC, Josef Martinez collided with a Nashville defender and fell to the grass pointing at his knee and in obvious pain.

After staying down for a couple of minutes, Martinez attempted to play on but then collapsed in the 69th minute as the pain was too much to carry on. He was then substituted and swiftly ushered down the tunnel. It looked nasty. Sunday afternoon, the team confirmed everyone’s worst fears: Martinez tore his ACL.

Newcomer Adam Jahn was sent in to replace Martinez and for the foreseeable future may be the permanent replacement with few other players available on the roster to lead the line.

With Atlanta struggling to get their new players’ visas, as evidenced by the struggles to usher through visas for both Matheus Rossetto and Manuel Castro, adding to the squad will also now be a quick process if they invest in a non-MLS option.

Martinez adds to an already heavily injury-hit squad. Miles Robinson, George Bello, and Edgar Castillo are all currently on the sidelines, while Franco Escobar also left the game at halftime after suffering a minor knick to his thigh. Frank de Boer didn’t want to risk Escobar even further and the defender is expected to return relatively quickly.

With this number of players on the injured list, as well as the quality of the options, it is tough to see Atlanta United advancing past Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League. They were already the underdogs in the tie, but Martinez’s absence at center-forward allied with some other crucial injuries undermines the team’s potency hugely.

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And even in MLS, the Five Stripes’ chances of reclaiming MLS have also cratered. Martinez, their best and most important player, will not play again this year. Take the key Designated Player out of any team and see the chaos that ensues. The same might well now happen in Atlanta.

It is safe to assume, then, that Atlanta’s primary focus has turned to finding a player to replace Martinez. But that is no easy task. No player has scored more MLS goals since he entered the league. He accounts for 41% of Atlanta United’s goals in their history.

Replacing that type of player is nigh-on impossible, especially when Atlanta have no DP slots to play with. Suddenly, then, before the 2020 season has really begun, it almost looks over for de Boer and co., who performed excellently in the CCL and showed togetherness and game-intelligence in the Nashville victory.

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Is that a little too rash? Soccer is a team sport, after all. But Martinez might be the most important player in all of MLS, no matter the team. Take him away and Atlanta United turn into a completely different unit, and it might spell trouble for the year ahead.