Pity Martinez

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Atlanta United wins Campeones Cup as Josef Martinez comes through

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If at first you do not succeed, try and try again. That is how Josef Martinez proceeded through the 90 minutes at Mercedes Benz Stadium, missing a first-half penalty and seeing a close-range effort saved after the break, but he delivered the winning blow with a 65th minute spot-kick to see Atlanta United over Club America 3-2 to win the Campeones Cup.

Atlanta United went in front early thanks to Bournemouth loanee Emerson Hyndman who put Atlanta United up inside the opening five minutes. A fabulous flick by Dion Pereira sent Hyndman through who finished one-touch inside the far post past Oscar Jimenez.

The home side was dominant on the ball, holding 60% possession through the first 45 minutes. Club America, however, remained dangerous when countering, and they struck back just minutes later through Roman Ibarra who roofed the equalizer. The goal came off fabulous work by Roger Martinez who corralled a hot pass from Andres Ibarguen down the left and worked his way down to the end line and along the edge before rifling a ball across the face of goal to Ibarra waiting at the far post for a thumping finish.

Atlanta United had a glorious opportunity to go in front after VAR forced a review of an incident in the box and a penalty was given for a foul by Bruno Valdez who clumsily hacked down Pity Martinez. Josef Martinez stepped up but his unorthodox run-up failed to produce a result as Jimenez saved the poor effort and the charging defense thwarted any rebound effort.

After the break, the two sides had good chances, with Josef Martinez missing a glorious opportunity soon after the restart as he trickled a breakaway shot wide left. Roger Martinez put Club America in front just before the hour mark on a corner as Atlanta goalkeeper Alec Kahn failed to judge the delivery right at the goal mouth and Martinez poked the effort in from point-blank range.

The lead wouldn’t last long – two minutes to be exact – as Jeff Larentowicz produced a piledriver from well outside the box and the effort took a deflection off the head of Carlos Vargas, seeing the ball sail into the top corner past a rooted Jimenez. The goal brought a sheepish smile from Frank De Boer as Mercedes Benz Stadium lit up.

Josef Martinez nearly put Atlanta in front minutes later, but Jimenez saved spectacularly with the goal gaping on Pereira’s scything cutback. He got another chance moments later, though, as Florentin Pogba was barged over by Guido Rodriguez, a blatant penalty. Martinez this time delivered a blistering effort from the spot, putting Atlanta United up 3-2 with a firecracker into the top-left corner.

The home side took firm control from that point, first coming close again via Pity Martinez who delivered a stunning free-kick that was athletically headed off the line by Valdez. The Paraguayan defender would not last much longer on the pitch, however, as he dragged down Josef Martinez on the break to earn his second yellow card and a sending off with 18 minutes to go.

The Club America meltdown was complete when manager Miguel Herrera and an assistant were both shown yellow cards by the official for dissent on the touchline, and the boss took some time to calm down as he gesticulated wildly. Club America threw goalkeeper Jimenez for a final corner effort, but it was a poor delivery and the final whistle blew to crown Atlanta United the first Campeones Cup winners from Major League Soccer.

Bournemouth’s Hyndman marks American return with assist (video)

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Bournemouth loanee Emerson Hyndman wasted no time in making an impact with Atlanta United in Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup on Wednesday.

Making his first start for the Five Stripes the former Fulham, Rangers, and Hibernian playmaker set up Pity Martinez’s opening goal of a 2-0 win at Kennesaw State.

[ MORE: Alves to Man City? ]

Atlanta United’s lineup was no joke against USL side Saint Louis FC, with the 23-year-old Hyndman in the middle of a 4-3-3 with Martinez, Josef Martinez, and Justin Meram atop him.

Hyndman took advantage of a poor giveaway from the SLFC right back, and popped the ball to Martinez for a pretty finish.

Despite its temporary status, the move is reminiscent of Sebastian Lletget‘s move to the LA Galaxy from West Ham United. In that scenario, however, Lletget didn’t go on loan and spent most of his time with the Irons’ U-23 side.

Lletget’s move has been a success. We’ll see if Hyndman’s is any better.

Top MLS Newcomers ahead of the 2019 season

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A handful of Major League Soccer sides are active in the CONCACAF Champions League, but all of the boys are back it this weekend with the start of the 2019 MLS league campaign.

[ RECAP: Liverpool 5-0 Watford ]

With a new season comes a lot of new faces. Here are five players to watch closely over the first few weeks of the season (Well, four… and one to most likely watch come April).

Alejandro Pozuelo, Toronto FC* — The asterisks is our assumption that the Pozuelo move happens, with TFC reportedly splashing big cash in both salary and transfer fee to bring the 27-year-old from Genk at the end of the Jupiler Pro League’s regular season. Pozuelo has 7 goals and 18 assists between league play and the Europa League which is… pretty darn good.

Pity Martinez, Atlanta United — A 25-year-old attacker recently capped by Argentina, Pity starred in both matches of the Club World Cup for River Plate and has the potential to be the next big thing… and maybe not just in MLS.

Emmanuel Ledesma, FC Cincinnati — The former Middlesbrough man is deadly on set pieces and absolutely torched USL defenses last season. There’s little reason to think his production will drop off dramatically despite the jump in competitive levels.

Vito Mannone, Minnesota United — It’s difficult to put a goalkeeper on this list, but the Loons bringing Mannone into the side while also having veteran Bobby Shuttleworth and SuperDraft pick Dayne St. Clair on the books is a statement in itself. Mannone was not the reason Sunderland was relegated a few years, and was the picture of class in trying to help the Black Cats stay up.

Carles Gil, New England Revolution — At 26 and coming to our shores from Deportivo de la Coruna after a brief but interesting spell at Aston Villa, he’s one of the litmus tests on display this season in MLS.

Honorable mention: Alexandru Mitrita, New York City FC; Terrence Boyd, Toronto FC; Marco Fabian, Philadelphia Union; Orji Okwonkwo, Montreal Impact; Hwang in-Boem, Vancouver Whitecaps.

Five incoming MLS players who provide litmus tests

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Even with a name like Pogba in the running, it will not make the list of most intriguing MLS transfers so far this offseason (and there may be more to come, especially with Toronto FC holding a Designated Player spot and reportedly chasing a star in the Belgian top flight).

Though Paul’s older brother Florentin is an intriguing center back addition for champions Atlanta United — he’s a season-and-a-half removed from a very good Ligue 1 campaign for Saint-Etienne — he’s not close to the five players leaping to the front of our minds.

[ MORE: Rice chooses England ]

That list was made trickier to assemble this week when Philadelphia signed Mexican playmaker Marco Fabian from Eintracht Frankfurt. Where will he meet our list, if anywhere?

So we added another qualifier to our list, and that’s whether the player’s standing and form provide us any sort of litmus test for the current state of MLS.

There have been outlandish talents like Pity Martinez and rising international midfielders like Hwang In-Boem before, but the gentlemen below could help teach us some things.

Also, we’re going to cheat and include six players, on five teams. It’s our list.

Fabian, Philadelphia Union —  If there ever was a case to be made for an automatic game-changer, it’s Fabian. The Mexican 29-year-old is two seasons removed from significant playing time with Eintracht Frankfurt, but his first season was very good — 7 goals, 4 assists — and he’s scored against Germany and Iceland in the last two years for El Tri. If he doesn’t control games, MLS has progressed even more than we suspected.

Carles Gil, New England Revolution — One day, La Liga players coming to MLS won’t be that big of a deal, and we’ll find out how accelerated that timeline has come in part through the play of Gil. The right winger and La Liga regular until this year has been with Deportivo de la Coruna’s second team all year. Is Brad Friedel the man to help Gil finally meet his potential head-on?

Terrence Boyd, Toronto FC — Boyd is one of the toughest-to-digest stories for American soccer, mostly because for a time it seemed he could be the next true USMNT star striker. But his time in the Bundesliga was cut by injuries, and he’s been unable to brand himself a regular 2.Bundesliga starter. It’s a rebirth story, but how quickly will he refind his footing? And is he a 10-goal contributor, which should be the minimum expectation, or a guy who can dominate a game?

Allan Cruz and Manu Ledezma, FC Cincinnati — The 22-year-old Cruz is one of the rising stars for Costa Rica, scoring against Peru in November after staring his first 7 appearances for Los Ticos. He’s moving from one of the biggest clubs in an inferior league to another CONCACAF testing ground.

As for Ledezma, the well-traveled 30-year-old Argentine absolutely tortured USL defenses last season, with 16 goals and 16 assists in 31 league games. The prior season, he bagged 10 goals with six assists in 19 NASL appearances with the New York Cosmos. MLS is a step-up, but not enough to deter optimism that the former Middlesbrough man cannot be a significant factor for manager Alan Koch.

Alexandru Mitrita, New York City FC — Here’s another litmus test for the league, in a different way. Mitrita left the Romanian first tier — UEFA coefficient 26th — got some good experience in Italy’s top two tiers with Pescara, and came home to light his domestic league on fire. The next step here is an interesting one for both the development of a player and a league. Mitrita wasn’t a star in Italy, just productive. He’s on fire in Romania. We’ll guess it’s a little bit of the former, at least to start. He’s just 24, and will continue to improve.

Atlanta United sign Argentine star Pity Martinez

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Gonzalo “Pity” Martinez has finally arrived at Atlanta United.

The Argentine playmaker becomes the latest Designated Player to arrive at the reigning MLS Cup champions from South America, as the 25-year-old joined from River Plate for a reported $17 million transfer fee.

If that fee is correct that is the highest-ever transfer fee paid by an MLS club for a player.

Martinez was crowned the top player in South America in 2018 and his arrival will likely see Miguel Almiron leave ATL in the coming days. The latter has been long-linked with a move to Newcastle United in the Premier League.

Discussing Pity’s arrival in MLS, Atlanta’s vice president and technical director Carlos Bocanegra said he is “an attacking player who can play wide or centrally. His abilities complement our style of play and we expect him to make a smooth transition to MLS.”

Pity is delighted to finally seal his move to Atlanta and play for their new manager Frank De Boer.

“I’m very excited to come to Major League Soccer and to join Atlanta United,” Martinez said. “The club has shown a lot of trust in me and I’m looking forward to working with Frank de Boer and my teammates to continue making history at the club.”

This is a big moment for Atlanta and MLS.

Being able to sign Pity from River Plate continues their strong link with the South American market as Almiron and Josef Martinez have been stars, while Ezequiel Barco played a key role later in the season and towards MLS Cup in 2018 after his arrival for $15 million. Barco’s signing was the previous record transfer fee for MLS until Pity’s arrival, with the teenager a purchase for the future. Pity will be a star in MLS right here, right now.

Signing the top player in South American soccer in his prime is a significant step for MLS and it cements Atlanta’s incredible quality, and depth, in their squad.

Despite the departure of Gerardo “Tata” Martino as manager last month — after he led them to two hugely successful opening years as a franchise — FDB will have the best squad in MLS by a country mile to work with.

It is pretty clear that Pity Martinez will become one of the faces of MLS in the years to come.