When Atlanta United joined Major League Soccer in 2017, they instantly became the envy of most supporters. They were immediately competitive in their inaugural campaign, finishing fourth in the Eastern Conference standings and qualifying for the playoffs. They weren’t afraid to spend money and had plenty of fan support in Atlanta, averaging 48,200 fans per game in their first year.
They averaged 53,000 fans in their second season and ultimately went on to win the league’s most prestigious prize, the MLS Cup in 2018. Venezuelan international Josef Martinez was the talk of the league, winning the MLS Golden Boot, MLS MVP, MLS Cup MVP and MLS All-Star Game MVP all in 2018. However, that now seems like a lifetime ago. Atlanta have struggled throughout the 2022 campaign and the frustration from the fans and players is palpable. After a humiliating 3-0 home loss to Austin FC – the worst home loss in franchise history – Martinez had enough and finally snapped. Not afraid to expose his teammates, the former Torino striker sounded off to the media.
“We play because we have to play, but in training some players don’t have that energy, people don’t know what we have to do or they don’t recognize or appreciate the jersey and what we’re doing for a long time. Probably that’s the (bigger) problem, because the injuries are not the problem,” he said.
“If you come here, you have to know what we have to do. So, if you don’t come here for the 100 percent, probably you don’t have to choose this club to play. That’s a message for everyone: If you want to bring guys, it’s because they want to play here and it’s not because of business and that’s happened for a long time.”
It is clear how much the club means to Martinez, but by the sounds of it that doesn’t seem to be the case with everyone else in their locker room.