All eyes will be on Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez when the Columbus Crew visit Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.
Martinez, after scoring twice in a 2-2 draw versus Toronto FC on Aug. 4, will get his first crack at breaking the Major League Soccer record of 27 goals in a season held by Roy Lassiter of the Tampa Bay Mutiny (30 games in 1996), Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes (32 games in 2012) and the New York Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips (32 games in 2014).
Martinez’s 26 goals have him tied with former Crew Stern John, who did it in 27 games in 1998. Martinez has 12 goals during a seven-game goal streak.
What’s remarkable for Martinez is he has played only 24 matches this season and has 10 remaining for league-leading Atlanta (14-4-6, 48 points), which has a one-point lead over the Red Bulls and New York City FC in the Eastern Conference.
Atlanta is 3-0-2 in the past five matches.
The Crew (11-7-6, 39 points) are on a roll as well. They won their third straight on Aug. 11 when Gyasi Zardes scored in stoppage time for a 1-0 victory.
Zardes has been overshadowed by Martinez, but he is fourth in MLS with 14 goals and has scored three goals in his last three matches.
The Crew are 8-3-0 in one-goal games and have scored the winning goal five times and the equalizer once after the 80th minute.
“We believe that if we keep playing until the final whistle and we’re completely focused, we can create goal-scoring opportunities, even late,” Crew coach Gregg Berhalter said.
It was the opposite feeling for Atlanta coach Tata Martinez after Toronto scored the equalizer in second-half stoppage time two weeks ago.
“We’ve lost seven points this season in the last five minutes or so of games — Dallas, New England and (Toronto),” he said.
—Field Level Media