- Atlanta United's Josef Martinez scored a record-setting hat trick against D.C United on Saturday, making it his sixth in his MLS career - a league record.
A busy, entertaining weekend of MLS action gave its fans plenty of storylines, including a record-setting day for Atlanta United's Josef Martinez, whose hat trick grabbed three points for the current Eastern Conference and Supporters' Shield leaders against Wayne Rooney and D.C United. Atlanta won 3-1 in front of its own fans. His three goals were significant for a number of reasons; First, it meant a career sixth MLS hat trick for the Venezuelan striker - a league record. Second, Martinez now has 22 goals in 2018, trailing the current single-season record of 27 by five, shared by Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips. Third, the 25-year-old striker now has 41 goals in 42 regular season appearances, which is an outstanding statistic, taking in mind this is a brand new club with only two years under its belt.
With that being said, we begin MLS's Week 21 recap with Martinez's performance against D.C, and attempt to dissect what makes him so lethal.
I. Martinez, the creator
It's sluggish to suggest Martinez's goals mainly come due to his poaching abilities. One of the reasons why he's so productive is his movement and playmaking abilities as he enters the final third. Watch his build-up play for his first goal.
II. Martinez in set pieces
Despite only being 5' 7", the South American knows how to make the most out of offensive set pieces by constantly disrupting defenders in the box. On his second goal, Atlanta United’s first-ever homegrown player Andrew Carleton, who played brilliantly this past weekend on his first full MLS debut, crossed in an inviting ball, and Martinez lost his man to head it in from close range.
III. Martinez, the speedster
The third historic goal, which secured his sixth hat trick, was a gift of speed and flair, all in one package. A great run and pass from Miguel Almirón found his teammate, who still had a lot to do when he found himself one-on-one with David Ousted. But his ability to lose players with his quick footwork was too much for the Danish goalkeeper. A beautfiul goal, which concluded a fantastic day for Josef Martinez, who is arguably on course on becoming the greatest striker the league has ever seen.
IV. Zlatan keeps doing Zlatan things
This may come to no surprise but Zlatan Ibrahimovic is killing it with LA Galaxy right now. On Saturday, the Swede scored and grabbed an assist in the team's 3-1 victory against Phiadelphia Union. He now has an impressive nine goals in his last six starts, but then again, it is Zlatan, so we shouldn't be surprised. “They’re lucky I didn’t come 10 years ago,” he said after the game, “because I would be the president today.” You know what Zlatan? We believe you.
V. 99 is the magic number
Bradley Wright-Phillips (No.99) scored his 99th career MLS goal against New England on Saturday. The goal, his 13th of the season, was classic BWP, thanks to a great cross from Kaku, who has 12 assists this year.
VI. Speaking of Kaku...
How about this piece of magic from Alejandro Sebastián Romero Gamarra? Take a bow.
VII. Orlando Drama
Scene: Orlando City leading 2-1 against Columbus in the 86th minute. Then, referee Silviu Petrescu blew his whistle for a foul committed in the box against Orlando. Players protested, claiming there was little, if anything there. VAR reviews all penalty decisions, but ulimately, it's down to the main official if he or she wants to take second look. This time around, he didn't and the penalty was awarded.
In retrospect, he might regret the decision.
VIII. Loons put on a show on Sunday
Don't look now, but Minnesota United is looking like a playoff contender. Much of it is thanks to Darwin Quintero, who has been the spark the team sorely needed. MNUFC is now in seventh place, two points behind the last playoff spot.
IX. Will Trapp should shoot more often
The Orlando-Crew matchup also gave us one of the best goals of the season, thanks to a player who really doesn't score too many. What. A. Goal.
X. Inside the huddle
These clips of what goes inside a pre-match huddle are great. Here's Sounders captain Nicolas Lodeiro.
XI. A Toronto resurgence?
Chris Mavinga and Jozy Altidore came back for the 2017 champions as Toronto FC defeated Chicago Fire on the road. This touch and finish from Sebastian Giovinco was beautiful.
The question remains: Can Toronto, currently in 10th place with 19 points, keep climbing up the table? Nine points from the last playoff spot with 14 matches left to play? Conceivable to say the least.