Josef Martinez celebrates his record-tying goal. (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)
ATLANTA — Josef Martinez scored his 27th goal to tie the Major League Soccer season record for goals as Atlanta United SC climbed back into the Eastern Conference lead with a 3-1 victory over Columbus Crew SC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Sunday.
Martinez tied a record shared by Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips in front of 45,309 fans — with nine games remaining in Atlanta’s season.
Tito Villalba and Miguel Almirón each added tallies to help Atlanta move back on top of the Supporters’ Shield race past the Red Bulls and New York City FC, who both dropped points this season.
“First, I offer my congratulations to Josef because it’s a very important achievement for him, especially being only his second year in the league,” Atlanta head coach Tata Martino said. “I think it’s like a weight off of his shoulders, now that he’s tied the record everything that comes after this is extra.”
Martinez tied the record in the 31st minute, finishing off a play that was started by Julian Gressel. The German midfielder intercepted a pass at midfield and started a counterattack with Martinez. The Golden Boot leader took on two defenders and fired a left-footed shot from 18-yards into the bottom left corner to beat goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
Asked if he was happy when he tallied the goal, Martinez replied, “No. When I get to 28 I’ll have something.
“I mean, I tied it, but what I really want is to break it. So once I break it, I’ll be even more happy.”
Martinez’s goal celebration was dedicated to his pregnant aunt, who lives with him.
“I had thought about doing it before at some point this season,” he said. “But I wanted it to be a special occasion.”
Martinez set up Almiron’s insurance goal in the 82nd minute. He could have shot and tried for his record-breaking score, but said, “I was out of energy.”
He could set the record in Atlanta’s next game at Orlando City SC Friday.
Martino also was happy his team was back atop the conference.
“It’s an occasion that we haven’t always been able to take advantage of in the past few weeks,” he said. “So it was important for us and I have the feeling that as we get closer to the end of the season that all of these results are going to be very important to separate us. Not only was it a great result in that Josef (Martinez) was able to tie the record, but I think with the win today we now have one more win than we had last season with nine games still to play. Those are goals that you go setting and I think it’s good that now we’re completing some of our goals.”