Getty Images

‘Pity’ Martinez arrives in U.S., even with no official ATL UTD announcement

Leave a comment

Atlanta United hasn’t officially announced the signing of Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez, but the talented Argentine attacker is in the U.S. now anyway.

Martinez posted a selfie of himself at Times Square in New York City, likely getting his first taste of anonymity after a star-studded run with River Plate in Buenos Aires.

[READ: Bielsa admits to spying all his “rivals”]

Following the rescheduled second leg of the Copa Libertadores final, Martinez and River Plate both confirmed to media post game that he was departing River Plate for Atlanta United, but despite this, the MLS club still hasn’t made the new official on their end. It’s unclear what the hold up is, whether it is transfer fee, agents fee, or Designated Player related. For the record, the LA Galaxy announced in December that it was re-signing Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a Designated Player contract, knowing all along that they couldn’t start the next MLS season with more than three DPs.

Previous reports out of Argentina have stated that Martinez’s transfer to Atlanta United could cost the club as much as $14 million including the base transfer fee to River Plate, agents fees, and potential add-ons.

A year ago, Atlanta United announced its club record signing, Ezequiel Barco, then-19, during the MLS Superdraft, but there was no Designated Player announcement at the league’s annual weekend symposium this year. Atlanta United has a challenge on its hands if Miguel Almiron isn’t sold to Europe this offseason. Under current MLS rules, it can’t have more than three players signed to Designated Player contracts.

Perhaps it could loan Barco, who struggled at times last season, or loan Martinez elsewhere, because Josef Martinez seems a lock to be in Atlanta for the foreseeable future.

Either way, Pity Martinez’s arrival in the U.S. could be a sign that an announcement could come soon from Atlanta United.

Josef Martinez re-ups with Atlanta through 2023

Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Josef Martinez has signed a new deal with Atlanta United, with a contract tying him to the club through the 2023 Major League Soccer season.

Martinez, 25, has 55 goals in 61 games for the Five Stripes since arriving from Torino in 2017, a strike rate unlike anything the Venezuelan had been able to do in his career with the Serie A club, Young Boys, or Caracas.

[ MORE: Neymar praises Weah ]

That development has him happy to lock down a new Designated Player deal in Georgia, one that certainly would raise his transfer value. From AtlUtd.com:

“This means a lot to me because of the affection that the fans have shown me, that the fans show all of the players. It’s unique,” Martinez said. “They recognize the effort that you give and they know you did everything to win, and I think that’s why we love playing here. I have to thank everyone. My teammates, the city, my family and friends, because this is a dream I’ve always had. I’ve said before that I don’t want to go anywhere because this is my home. You can expect more work, more intensity, because that’s who I am. I want to win. I want to do everything for my teammates and for the city.”

With neither Newcastle nor Real Betis ready to meet Atlanta’s transfer fee for Miguel Almiron, the Five Stripes are in a bit of a bind with a reported deal for expected DP Pity Martinez despite having the league maximum three DPs in Martinez, Almiron, and Ezequiel Barco. Perhaps the European clubs are trying to force Atlanta’s hand.

Transfers: Atlanta adds Watford teen; Harkes heads to Scotland

Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Atlanta United CEO Darren Eales tweeted that the Five Stripes were about to announce a DP signing, few figured he meant initials.

No, Pity Martinez was not announced on Tuesday, but Atlanta did unveil an intriguing signing in his own right.

Dion Pereira, 19, made a pair of Premier League appearances for Watford at the end of the 2016-17 season, and Atlanta is betting that a move across the Atlantic will transform him into its next prized young asset.

The Watford-born forward scored 13 goals in PL2 last season.


Going the other way, from MLS to Scotland, is DC United and Wake Forest product Ian Harkes.

The son of longtime USMNT captain John, Ian Harkes is 23 and played 37 times with four goals and two assists for the Black-and-Red last season.

Harkes is headed to Dundee United, who sits third in the Scottish Championship and is just three points back of table-leading Ross County.

De Boer takes over Atlanta United with big shoes to fill

Getty Images
2 Comments

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) Frank De Boer was sacked by Inter Milan after less than three months on the job.

He lasted just four Premier League games at Crystal Palace.

Now, after two short-lived coaching stints, de Boer has a chance to revive his career with the wildly popular champions of Major League Soccer.

[READ: Report: Kane could miss at least a month with injury]

The longtime stalwart of the Dutch national team has taken over at Atlanta United, which won the MLS Cup in just its second season while breaking numerous attendance records.

De Boer said it is a shot at redemption, while also stressing that his chances of success are much greater in Atlanta.

“Of course, you have to learn from your mistakes, but also about organizations that aren’t good and organized and structured like Atlanta United,” he said Monday during a news conference at the team’s suburban training facility.

With his two previous employers, de Boer added, “There was no cohesion between all the departments. Everything was separate. Now, we have a feeling, `OK, I don’t have to look around for the dead body in the closet or behind the closet.’ Everything is very clear and structured.”

He represented his country 112 times on the field, most notably delivering a towering 60-yard pass that set up Dennis Bergkamp’s winning goal against Argentina in the closing minutes of a 1998 World Cup quarterfinal. De Boer moved into coaching after his playing career ended, leading Dutch powerhouse Ajax to a record four straight Eredivisie titles.

Taking over at Inter Milan in 2016, de Boer failed to match the success he had in his native country. The Italian club struggled in both Serie A and Europa League competitions, which led to his firing on Nov. 1 with the club mired in 12th place.

His tenure lasted just 85 days.

The following summer, de Boer was hired by Crystal Palace. Despite modest expectations – the team was coming off a 15th-place showing the previous season, finishing just five points above the relegation zone – the coach was quickly fired again after Crystal became the first team in 93 years to lose its first four matches in the top flight without scoring a goal.

Atlanta United is in a much different position, having quickly become MLS’ flagship franchise on and off the field. The team has a clear power structure led by owner Arthur Blank, team president Darren Eales and technical director Carlos Bocanegra – a setup that was appealing to de Boer.

“For me, that is so much easier,” he said. “The 5 1/2 seasons that I was working for Ajax as a head coach … it cost me less energy than the eight months at Inter and Crystal Palace. I was already starting to get gray hairs.”

De Boer certainly has some big shoes to fill.

In two years as United’s coach, Tata Martino instilled an attacking style of play that was a big hit with the fans and hugely successful on the field. The club averaged more than 53,000 per game this season, easily eclipsing its own record, and thrilled the city by capturing the MLS Cup championship in December.

Martino stepped down to take over as Mexico’s national coach.

The expectations remain the same.

“Everybody expects a lot from Atlanta United,” de Boer said. “That’s normal when you’re a champion.”

De Boer’s team is still a work in progress. MVP runner-up Miguel Almiron was expected to transfer to the Premier League during the January window, but no deal has been reached. He reported Monday for the start of Atlanta’s training camp.

River Plate star Pity Martinez announced last month that he had a deal to come to Atlanta, supposedly as Almiron’s replacement in the midfield, but that’s on hold for the moment. United already has three designated players who are exempt from the salary cap: Almiron, record-setting goal scorer and league MVP Josef Martinez, and 19-year-old Ezequiel Barco.

Less than six weeks removed from its MLS Cup triumph, Atlanta United reported for camp to begin preparing for its first appearance in the CONCACAF Champions League. The team opens with a home-and-home series against Costa Rican club Herediano late next month, just ahead of the MLS season opener.

Atlanta United is eager to become the first MLS club to win the continental championship since the league format began in 2008. Mexican teams have won 10 straight titles, including Chivas’ thrilling victory over Toronto FC last year that came down to penalty kicks.

“We need to have an MLS club win it,” Eales said. “It would be great if that could be Atlanta United.”

But pulling off a CONCACAF title, while also maintaining success in league play, presents a daunting challenge for the new coach. Toronto put its emphasis on winning the Champions League and wound up missing the MLS playoffs.

“We’re not naive. We saw what happened to Toronto,” Eales said. “It’s going to be tough. But we want to be competing on all fronts.”

Report: Pity Martinez could cost Atlanta United almost $14 million

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s not as much as the club spent on Ezequiel Barco, but Atlanta United has again reportedly shelled out a boatload of money compared to most MLS transactions to sign its latest Argentine star.

According to a report from Argentine daily newspaper Ole, Atlanta United and River Plate agreed on a base $10 million transfer fee for midfielder Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez. The fee could rise to nearly $14 million should Martinez make 10 MLS starts, or should he be sold to a new club, which-ever comes first, along with agent fees and taxes. In addition, Atlanta United and River Player will play a friendly match in the future, with River Plate keeping the proceeds of the match.

The agreement is lower than Martinez’s reported release clause, which has been cited at both $15 million and $17 million from different outlets.

Martinez, 25, scored the third goal in River Plate’s wild 3-1 win over Boca Juniors in the second leg of the Copa Libertadores final, which took place at the Estadio Bernabeu in Madrid. Martinez decided to take Atlanta United’s offer reportedly because they “put their trust” in him, while European suitors did not. At 25, Martinez is entering the prime of his career and is a major coup for MLS.

Although not many clubs can afford to pay those fees, if more of the top South American stars are looking to come to the U.S., it will only raise the level of the league, as European sides miss out on the available talent. For Atlanta United, it leaves them in an interesting situation.

More than likely Martinez will be a Designated Player, but at the moment, Atlanta United’s three DP spots are all filled by Josef Martinez, Miguel Almiron and Barco. Almiron is reportedly close to a move to the Premier League, with Newcastle reportedly his potential destination, but no announcement has been made yet.

Like the LA Galaxy, Atlanta United has until March to finalize their season-opening roster with three DPs, but expect plenty of movement in January as the transfer window in Europe and abroad opens.