Josef Martinez’s next goal will rate as a historic score.
The Atlanta United striker will be seeking to set the MLS single-season record for goals in a season during Friday’s road match against Orlando City.
Martinez has found the back of the net 27 times this season, tying the league mark shared by Roy Lassiter (1996), Chris Wondolowski (2012) and Bradley Wright-Phillips (2014). He has matched the mark even though MLS-best Atlanta United (15-4-6, 51 points) still has nine matches left in the regular season.
“I tied it, but what I really want is to break it,” Martinez said through a translator after matching the mark during last Sunday’s 3-1 victory over the Columbus Crew. “Once I break it, then I’ll be even more happy. When I get to 28, then I’ll have something.”
The 25-year-old Martinez certainly has a good chance at setting the record against Orlando City (7-15-2, 23 points) as he has scored at least one goal in each of the past eight matches. Martinez has 13 goals during the stretch.
His remarkable campaign includes six multiple-goal outings, including three three-goal matches.
Atlanta United coach Tata Martino figures the next goal will relieve pressure off Martinez.
“It’s a very important achievement for him, especially being only his second year in the league,” Martino told reporters. “I think it’s a weight off his shoulders, now that he’s tied the record. Everything that comes after this is extra.”
Atlanta owns a six-game unbeaten streak (4-0-2) as it begins a four-game road trip with the visit to Orlando City Stadium.
The United hold a slim edge over the New York Red Bulls (49 points) and New York City FC (48) in the Eastern Conference race and understand they can’t afford a stumble against the Lions.
“We just have to be calm, stay patient and keep doing the things we’ve been doing,” midfielder Miguel Almiron (nine goals, 11 assists) told reporters through a translator earlier this week. “We have to keep our feet on the ground and take these games one at a time on the road.”
Orlando City is 10 points behind the Philadelphia Union and Montreal Impact for the final playoff spots in the East.
The Lions are 0-4-1 over their past five matches and have allowed 15 goals during the stretch. They lost to D.C. United 3-2 in their most recent match on Aug. 12.
“I think we want to try to create some problems for them,” Orlando City coach James O’Connor told reporters of Atlanta United. “I think they’re a great attacking team, having a very strong year. But equally, we’re at home, we want to create a really intimidating atmosphere.”
The Lions will be without midfielders Yoshi Yotun and Cristian Higuita due to red-card suspensions. Yotun is serving the second of a two-game suspension while Higuita is out due to single-match discipline.
Forward Dominic Dwyer leads Orlando City with 11 goals and has scored one in each of the past three matches.
—Field Level Media