Atlanta United suspends star striker Josef Martinez ahead of Toronto FC visit

·2 min read

Atlanta United will be without star striker Josef Martinez when it hosts Toronto FC on Saturday.

Atlanta announced Wednesday that the 29-year-old Venezuelan, who leads the MLS club in scoring with eight goals this season, has been suspended for one game "for conduct detrimental to the team."

While the club did not detail the misbehaviour, reports said he had been involved in a locker-room altercation with coach Gonzalo Pineda following Sunday's 2-1 loss in Portland with Martinez scoring for Atlanta.

Atlanta said Martinez won't take part in team activity this week and is scheduled to re-join the team next Monday. The fiery Venezuelan has scored 97 goals and added 16 assists in 130 regular-season appearances for Atlanta. He leads the franchise with 110 goals in all competitions.

In 2018, Martinez won MLS MVP, all-star game MVP, Golden Boot, and MLS Cup final MVP honours after a 31-goal season. He added 27 more goals in 2019 before injuring his knee one game into the 2020 season, missing the rest of the campaign.

Like Toronto, Atlanta is fighting to make the playoffs.

At 8-12-9, 11th-place Atlanta is one place and one point behind Toronto (9-14-7) in the Eastern Conference with one game in hand. Seventh-place New England (9-9-11) currently holds down the last playoff berth in the East.

The Martinez suspension is the latest bad news for Atlanta, which has won just two of its last 10 league outings (2-4-4).

Star defender Miles Robinson was arrested at a suburban bar Saturday on a misdemeanour theft charge. The U.S. international has been out since rupturing his Achilles tendon in May.

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This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 7, 2022

Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press