Is Atlanta United’s Martinez an MLS MVP candidate?

September 16, 2017 Atlanta – Atlanta United forward Josef Martinez (7) heads the ball in the second half of an MLS soccer match at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, September 16, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

 

Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez is on a scoring binge unlike anything I’ve seen in soccer.

The Venezuelan has eight goals in his past four games.

He has 17 goals this season. He trails league-leader David Villa of NYCFC by just two goals, despite playing slightly more than half the minutes.

While Martinez has shot his way into the race for the Golden Boot, should he be considered among contenders for MLS MVP?

At this point, with how Atlanta United is playing with Martinez back from injury and in form, it’s hard to argue no.

Martinez has missed 13 of Atlanta United’s 28 games because of injury. During the games he missed, Atlanta United  went 4-4-5, which isn’t too bad.

But with Martinez starting or coming off the bench, the team is 9-4-2.

When it comes to scoring, the team averages 2.9 goals per game when Martinez starts or comes off the bench. Without him, the team averages 1.5 goals per game.

His value is evident.

But there’s more: With Martinez one of several contributing, Atlanta United needs just six points to become the first MLS expansion squad to secure a spot in the playoffs since Seattle in 2009.

And more: With Martinez one of several contributing, the team should clinch at least a fourth seed, which means it would get to host a playoff game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The team is 3-0-1 at its new home, 9-2-2 at home this season (after losing two of its first three).

As comparison, consider the league’s other expansion squad, Minnesota United. The Loons haven’t been nearly as ruthless at home or as fortunate in their player signings. The team is 8-15-5 with a minus-22 goal difference.

Why wouldn’t Martinez be a lock for MVP?

First, there are several great candidates: Villa, Chicago’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, Portland’s Diego Valeri, Toronto’s Victor Vazquez or Sebastian Giovinco are all deserving.

Second, Martinez and Miguel Almiron may split votes. Almiron’s stats aren’t as gaudy as those of Martinez, but with nine goals, 13 assists and a work-rate of perpetual motion machine, it can be argued he is just as important to Atlanta United’s success.


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