Whether it can successfully defend its MLS Cup crown in 2019 remains to be seen, but one thing is certain for Atlanta United this season: Josef Martinez will get an opportunity to break the scoring record he set last year.
The talented forward signed a five-year contract extention with the Major League Soccer club Wednesday, which will last through the 2023 season. Martinez tallied a league-record 31 goals during the regular season and added four more in the MLS Cup playoffs.
“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.”
After scoring 19 goals in 20 matches during his first season with Atlanta, Martinez followed that up with a record-breaking campaign in which he became the first MLS player to win all-star, regular season and MLS Cup MVP honors in the same season.
The Venezuelan striker scored 31 goals to win MLS’ Golden Boot, breaking the league’s regular season scoring record of 27. He added four goals during the playoffs to break the league’s combined scoring record with 35 goals.
Martinez scored two goals in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals to help Atlanta United advance past New York City FC and added a goal in the Eastern Conference final against the Red Bulls. In the MLS Cup, Martinez scored the opening goal and assisted on the second to earn MVP honors in Atlanta’s 2-0 victory over Portland Timbers.
“Josef is an exciting, dynamic player and has proven himself to be one of the best in MLS over the past two seasons,” Atlanta United president Darren Eales said. “In addition to breaking the league’s scoring record, his work ethic and determination were rewarded by being named League MVP, and most importantly, MLS Cup champion with his teammates. We’re excited to secure Josef’s long-term future in Atlanta and we look forward to celebrating many more accomplishments together.”
The 25-year-old Martinez also holds the league’s hat-trick record with six and single-season mark with three, and in 2018 tied the MLS record for goals in consecutive matches with nine. He is averaging .93 goals per game and 1.04 goals per 90 minutes in MLS regular season play through 54 games, both of which rank first all time in MLS.
“Josef is an outstanding player and I’m very excited to have him committed long-term to the club,” new head coach Frank de Boer said. “As a manager, he’s the type of player you want on your team because he is intensely focused and you can count on him every time he steps on the field. I’m looking forward to working with him and to continuing the great success he’s had with Atlanta United.”