Atlanta’s Josef Martinez breaks Orlando hearts as visitors take the points in Florida clash

Josef Martinez made MLS history on Friday evening as his 74th minute strike sealed all three points for Atlanta United as they look to consolidate their place at the top of the Eastern Conference.

Martinez scored his 28th goal of the MLS regular season as Atlanta took the 2-1 win over Orlando City as part of Rivalry Week.  The 25-year-old Venezuelan’s winner broke the record of goals scored in a single season, a 27-goal mark established in the league’s debut season of 1996 and reached over the years by Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips.

In truth, it was men against boys as Orlando’s Head Coach James O’Connor continued with his policy of blooding young players with a view to the 2019 season.

Top of the league Atlanta opened the scoring midway through the first half, as Orlando keeper Joe Bendik could only palm Ezequiel Barco’s left sided free kick into the path of Leandro Gonzalez Pirez, who bundled the ball into the net in the 21st minute.

Orlando, who have won just once in the last 15 games, answered shortly before halftime as Will Johnson found Scott Sutter running loose in the box. Sutter drilled a beautiful right-footed shot from 17 yards out that whizzed past Atlanta goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the 39th minute for his second goal of the season.

Then came the moment of the match for Martinez. Julian Gressel set things up as he played a one two with Tito Villalba on the wing and then burst into space. A decisive run from Miguel Almirón pulled the home defence momentarily away from Martinez for Gressel to put perfectly into the Golden Boot leader’s path and that’s all he needed. Taking the ball on his left foot he cut back onto his right before sending a sumptuous chip over Bendik and into the net.

It was Martinez’s 28th goal of the year, the most ever in MLS, with 8 matches still to go. Further, there’s another record in sight; this was his ninth straight match with a goal, tying the MLS record for a goalscoring streak.

Orlando have never beaten Atlanta and while they played reasonably well for most of the game, O’Connor was honest in his assessment of the game in the after match press conference as he said “Obviously very disappointed. It was a game we wanted to try and win for the supporters. Very, very disappointed. We need to be honest with ourselves. Look, we can point and we can say we had some key players missing, but again, for me they’re excuses. I think for where we want to get to and where we’re going to get to, we need levels of performance that are higher.”

And that really summed it up. Atlanta were the better team by far having 62.1% of the possession and out-shooting the hosts 10-4 in shots on goal. Orlando always looked second best and it was impossible not to look at the contrast between both teams. Atlanta have an owner in Arthur Blank who is committed to long-term planning and investment. The recruitment of top Argentine coach Tata Martino along with an able front office who have scouted and signed some exciting young South American talent, has resulted in an attacking juggernaut that has taken MLS by storm. The team is now 5 points clear at the top of the Eastern Conference with 54 points while Orlando is firmly in last place with just 23. Atlanta has also scored 55 goals and conceded 30 as Orlando has managed just 39 goals for and 59 goals against. Not bad for a team that joined MLS in 2017.


Orlando City SC – GK Joe Bendik, D PC, Shane O’Neill, ⓒ Jonathan Spector, Scott Sutter, M Carlos Ascues (Stéfano Pinho 67’), Uri Rosell, Chris Mueller, Will Johnson (Jose Villarreal 87’), Josué Colmán (Pierre Da Silva 61’), F Dom Dwyer

Substitutes Not Used: GK Earl Edwards, Jr., D Amro Tarek, Dillon Powers, Tony Rocha

Atlanta United – GK Brad Guzan, D Chris McCann, Leandro González Pirez, Michael Parkhurst, Julian Gressel, M Eric Remedi, Jeff Larentowicz, Ezequiel Barco (Kevin Kratz 90+1’), Miguel Almirón, Héctor Villalba (Miles Robinson 83’), F Josef Martínez (Romario Williams 90+1’)

Substitutes Not Used: GK Alec Kann, D José Hernández, George Bello, M Andrew Carleton

Attendance: 25,058

More photographs at

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