Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez tears ACL in season opener

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Atlanta United will be without its goal king for the foreseeable future.

[ MORE: MLS opening day roundup ]

The team revealed on Sunday that star striker Josef Martinez, 26, sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during Saturday’s match against Nashville SC. The Venezuelan is expected to undergo surgery and subsequently begin a lengthy rehabilitation process.

In the dying minutes of the first half, Martinez chased after Nashville defender David Romney, who had possession of the ball. As he closed in on Romney, the striker collapsed to the ground after minimal contact, holding his right knee.

Martinez continued to play for a few minutes before signaling to the bench that he needed to be subbed off. He was eventually strapped to the backboards and stretched off the field.

With his absence, Frank De Boer and company are left with Adam Jahn as the only striker on the club’s roster. Scoring responsibilities will heavily shift not only on Jahn, but on Ezequiel Barco and Pity Martinez as well.

“Everybody knows that Josef, when he’s in form, he’s the best in MLS,” de Boer said following Saturday’s match. “In training you see the quality. It’s going to be a big loss.”

In 84 appearances for the Five Stripes, Martinez has scored 77 goals, making a case that he’s one of the best strikers to play in the league. In 2018, when Atlanta United crowned themselves MLS Cup winners, he was named league MVP.

It’s unsure if Martinez’s injury will keep him out for the remainder of the season. What is sure, however, is that Atlanta United will need goals from whoever fills his role – despite having Jahn in the fold. That will not come easy.

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“We have to search and not make a hasty decision,” de Boer added. “If he’s ruled out, there’s a good possibility that we are looking at the market for a replacement.”

Martinez’s loss is a gigantic blow to Venezuela’s Copa America chances, but, most notably, to Atlanta United, who will play on without their historic goal scorer.