It's Josef Martinez's world, and the rest of MLS is living in it. Here's the fallout from the Atlanta United star's record-setting performance and more from a riveting Rivalry Week.
It's Josef Martinez's world, and the rest of MLS is living in it.
The Atlanta United star rewrote the MLS record books Friday night in sensational fashion, with a highlight-reel game-winning goal that marked his 28th of the season and also was his record-tying ninth straight game with a score. It also continued a thrilling "Rivalry Week" slate in which the Portland Timbers' self-inflicted wound gifted their hated Seattle Sounders another win and boost in the playoff race, the New York and L.A. teams played to draws and the Rocky Mountain showdown was as one-sided as it gets.
Here's the best from another action-packed weekend across MLS:
I. How many can Martinez score?
Martinez wasted little time in removing any suspense from the record watch, and he's left the door open to absolutely obliterate the mark. He's averaging more than a goal per game in his 46-match MLS career, and with Atlanta still having eight matches to play–and a Supporters' Shield for which to contend, mind you–simple math would suggest that 36 isn't out of reach.
As he showed vs. Orlando City, it only takes one opening for him to strike. The Lions had actually done a very admirable job smothering and frustrating Martinez up until his goal, which was part defensive lapse to afford him that much space, part excellent pass and part superb finish (finished off with a glare to top all glares at Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik and some tremendous post-game trash talk).
Simply put, MLS has never seen a forward this in-form before, and with some of the league's worst defenses–Colorado, Chicago, San Jose among them–remaining on Atlanta's schedule, that form could easily carry on through the remainder of the season.
II. Old record-holders react
As you'd expect, Bradley Wright-Phillips and Chris Wondolowski, two of the classiest competitors in the league, offered gracious thoughts for Martinez within minutes of him breaking their joint record:
The only way the reaction could have been more complete would have been if Ariel Lassiter–Roy's son and current LA Galaxy forward–left his stamp on the ensuing El Trafico that followed Atlanta's win. But, alas, Lassiter remained an unused substitute as the Galaxy were held to a 1-1 draw.
III. The full Zlatan
Speaking of the Galaxy's draw, it featured just about the entire Zlatan Ibrahimovic experience.
It had the (VAR-confirmed) goal, which brought Ibrahimovic to 499 in his career for club and country.
It had the near-golazo, with Zlatan firing off the crossbar on a long-range laser out of nowhere soon after his opener.
It had Zlatan attempting a rabona cross in the run of play. And then it had more of the shenangians-related material. Ibrahimovic was given a yellow for diving, and he probably should've been sent off for blasting a ball into the stands well after the offside whistle had been blown.
To top it all off, his remarks after the match were quintissentially Zlatan, as well.
IV. Death by Own Goal
If only pregame tifos determined match outcomes.
Instead, a late own goal did the honors, vaulting the Sounders to their club-record seventh straight win, while the Timbers continued their slide with a fourth straight loss.
Portland, despite its earlier 15-match unbeaten streak, is now on the outside of the playoff picture looking in, while Seattle, master of the summer surge, is unbeaten in 10 and sits in fifth after being left for dead. Portland still has games in hand on its chief competitors and doesn't quite need to freak out just yet, but the self-inflicted wounds aren't going to help this side escape its doldrums.
V. Rocky Mountain rout
After a six-goal win–helped by having a two-man advantage by halftime–you earn the right to talk smack like this.
RSL's 6-0 triumph in Colorado put the finishing touches on yet another Rocky Mountain Cup in dominating fashion.
VI. Now that's a comeback
Down 2-0 to the lowly San Jose Earthquakes, the Vancouver Whitecaps turning things around within 10 minutes, going 3-2 up all while keeping the club in the playoff hunt. A loss to San Jose, bluntly, would've been a disaster.
VII. He's a little biased
Forgive Whitecaps star Alphonso Davies for being excited for his pending move to Bayern Munich and for supporting his future teammates, but there's no way this should have been a penalty for Franck Ribery.
VIII. Chicago is slumping–time to celebrate!
Speaking of Bayern, what better way to celebrate a nine-game winless skid than with a trip to Munich for Bastian Schweinsteiger's testimonial!?
Of course, it's well-deserved for Schweinsteiger, who was a Bayern and Germany legend and has played well in MLS and been a solid addition to the league even if the same trophy success hasn't followed.
The timing of the event is a bit bizarre, though, given it's smack in the middle of the MLS season and means Chicago will go almost a month (August 23 to September 16) without playing a match. The Fire, much to Schweinsteiger's chagrin, don't have much to play for given how the season has unfolded, but surely there was a better time to orchestrate this match, no?
IX. Red Bulls rebound
The Red Bulls wasted a golden chance to put space between them and NYCFC in the Eastern Conference when they settled for a 1-1 draw despite having a two-man advantage in their midweek clash. They took out their frustration on their original rival, D.C. United, with Kaku delivering the Atlantic Cup to Red Bull Arena with this peach of a goal.
X. Toronto FC comes alive
Hope you didn't count out the champs just yet. A trying season for Toronto FC got a little better after a three-goal outburst in the opening half hour vs. Montreal put the Reds back on course for a run at a playoff berth.
The upcoming schedule isn't easy–at Portland, home vs. both LA teams, at the Red Bulls in the next four–but TFC sits six points out of the final playoff place with two games in hand on the sixth-place Impact. New England and D.C. both remain in contention and have games in hand on Montreal, too, which should make for a fantastic run to the finish. After that brutal four-game stretch, Toronto faces New England, D.C. and Montreal in three of its following four matches, meaning there's plenty there for the taking for the club coming off the best single-season run in league history.
XI. The sneaky in-form duo
Martinez's Atlanta and the surging Sounders are rightfully dominating the spotlight, but Sporting Kansas City and the Philadelphia Union are quietly putting together excellent runs of form at the right time. As the calendar turns to September, the two sides are on four- and three-match winning streaks, respectively, and they're doing it with defense.
Sporting KC hasn't given up a goal at all during its four-match run, blanking Houston, LAFC, Portland and Minnesota to go unscathed in the month of August. The Union, meanwhile, have pitched consecutive shutouts against NYCFC and New England and have displayed a knack for finishing the job that has evaded the club for years. It can't rest easy in the playoff chase just yet, but for manager Jim Curtin and Philly, it's a case of patience appearing to pay off–finally.