Atlanta United striker Josef Martinez was the last player to leave the field on Friday.
He stood near the corner of Orlando City Stadium, soaking up the love from the dozens of the team’s supporters who witnessed Martinez’s historic achievement: breaking the MLS single-season scoring record by netting his 28th goal in a 2-1 win over the Lions.
That Martinez would get the record – the team has eight games remaining – was a foregone conclusion. Now, how far can he leave those he was tied with – Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips – is the question that not even Martinez says he can answer.
“If I knew I would tell you, but all I want to do is help the team,” he said.
After scoring in his ninth consecutive game, which tied another MLS record, Martinez is averaging slightly more than a goal per game. With eight games remaining, starting at D.C. United on Sept. 2, Martinez could push the single-season mark to the mid or upper 30s. But with his penchant for scoring hat tricks, even reaching 40 goals doesn’t seem impossible.
“Let's see if we can get to 34,” said teammate Julian Gressel, who assisted on both the record-tying goal in last week’s win against Columbus, and the record-breaking goal at Orlando City. “I think he is going to get more chances and score more goals."
Manager Gerardo Martino also didn’t want to try to predict how many Martinez may score.
“Hopefully a lot more and hopefully they’ll keep helping the team to win,” he said. “As I said, this will calm him down and he’s lost that anxiety now that he’s got the record.”
The historic moment didn’t seem likely for most of the game against Orlando City. The Lions were doing a good job of denying Martinez service. He sometimes would drop deeper and deeper into Atlanta United’s formation just to get a touch of the ball.
But, after keeping its defensive discipline most of the night, the Lions cracked in the 74th minute. Gressel stole the ball from Chris Mueller near Atlanta United’s penalty box. He played a one-two pass with Hector Villalba, who gave him the ball back near midfield.
As Gressel dribbled forward, Miguel Almiron and Martinez began their runs toward Orlando City’s penalty box. Almiron took several defenders with him, which inexplicably left a passing channel open to Martinez.
Gressel didn’t miss. Neither did Martinez, who held his nerve long enough for goalkeeper Joe Bendik to commit. After Bendik made his move, Martinez hit a chip from 12 yards that gently and inevitably crossed the line.
No. 28 for No. 7.
“I don’t know if it more special, but it is a big relief for me,” Martinez said. “When I went in to the locker room laughing, the guys were making jokes about it and now I can make jokes back to them.”
Martinez ran to the corner of the stadium, where Atlanta United’s supporters were sitting in the second deck. Martinez ripped off his jersey, holding up for the supporters to see.
He said he is going to frame the orange Nike cleats as a memento for the moment.
“I will not play in those cleats again,” he said.
MLS Single Season Goals Record
Goals Player Team Year
1. 28 Josef Martinez (ATLUTD), 2018
t-2. 27 Roy Lassiter (Tampa Bay), 1996
Chris Wondolowski (San Jose), 2012
Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls), 2014
t-3. Stern John (Columbus), 1998
Mamadou Diallo (Tampa Bay) 2000
t-4. 24 Carlos Ruiz (Los Angeles), 2002
Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls), 2016
Nemanja Nikolic (Chicago), 2017
t-5. 23 Raul Diaz Arce (D.C. United), 1996
Taylor Twellman (New England), 2002
David Villa (NYCFC), 2016
t-6. Camilo Sanvezzo (Vancouver), 2013
Dom Dwyer (Sporting KC), 2014
Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto), 2015
Kei Kamara (Columbus), 2015
David Villa (NYCFC), 2017
t-7. 21 Eduardo Hurtado (Los Angeles), 1996
Mike Magee (Chicago), 2013
Diego Valeri (Portland), 2017
Most goal across two seasons:
- Josef Martinez, 47, 2017-18
2. David Villa (NYCFC), 45, 2016-17
t- 3. Stern John (Columbus), 44, 1998-99
Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls), 44, 2014-15
5. Chris Wondolowski (San Jose), 43, 2011-12
t-6. Taylor Twellman (New England), 41, 2002-03
Raul Diaz Arce (D.C. United), 41, 1996-97
Bradley Wright-Phillips (New York Red Bulls), 41, 2016-17
Consecutive games with goals
t-1. Josef Martinez (Atlanta United), 9, 2018
Diego Valeri (Portland), 9, 2017
t- 2. Raul Diaz Arce (D.C. United), 7, 1997
Wolde Harris (New England), 7, 2000
Carlos Ruiz (Dallas), 7, 2006
Career hat tricks
Player, number of games, number of hat tricks
1. Josef Martinez*, 42, 6
t-2. Stern John, 55, 5
Diego Serna, 124, 5
t-3. Edson Buddle, 304, 4
Mamadou Diallo, 74, 4
Landon Donovan, 340, 4
* - active