Atlanta United's Josef Martinez suspended for 1 week

·3 min read

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta United announced a one-week suspension Wednesday for disgruntled striker Josef Martinez, who has been coming off the bench for a once-powerhouse MLS team winding down a disappointing season.

United said the suspension was for conduct detrimental to the team. It gave no further details.

Martinez is barred from training sessions this week and won't play in Saturday's home match against Toronto. He can rejoin the team next Monday.

It was the second straight day of negative news for United, on the heels of Tuesday's report that defender Miles Robinson was arrested for misdemeanor theft following a dispute over a drink charge at a suburban bar.

Robinson is out for the season with a ruptured Achilles tendon. He had been considered a lock for the U.S. World Cup team before his injury.

Martinez leads Atlanta with eight goals, including the only score in last weekend's 2-1 loss at Portland. He's the franchise leader with 110 goals across all competitions.

But Martinez has been dropped from the starting lineup by coach Gonzalo Pineda, who has brought the 29-year-old Venezuelan off the bench in the past four games.

Martinez, who has clashed with previous Atlanta coaches, is clearly not happy with the direction of the team.

In July, speaking with reporters after a 3-0 loss to Austin, Martinez called out teammates for a lack of effort and the front office for assembling a roster that has struggled most of the season. He also took his share of the blame for the team's disappointing performance.

“We play because we have to play, but in the training some players don’t have that energy,” he said. “Some people don’t know what we have to do or they don’t recognize or they don’t appreciate the jersey. That’s probably the (biggest) problem."

Martinez also hinted that his days with the team are winding down. He has one year left on his contract, with a club option for 2024.

“I try to do my best. Sometimes I can play good, sometimes not. Sometimes I can score, sometimes not,” he said. “Probably this team needs ... different players.”

Atlanta (8-12-9) ranks 11th in the Eastern Conference and appears likely to miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. That's a steep drop from the club's heady success after entering Major League Soccer in 2017.

Cheered on by record crowds at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, United made the playoffs in its debut season, won the MLS Cup in 2018, and followed up with the U.S. Open Cup title and a run to the conference finals in 2019.

Martinez was the toast of Atlanta, winning the league MVP award in 2018 while setting an MLS record for goals in a season with 31. A mural of him was painted near the stadium and he made it clear that he hoped to spend the rest of his career with United.

Martinez added 27 goals in 2019 but went down the following year with a season-ending knee injury in the MLS opener at Nashville.

He hasn't been the same player since returning from his extensive rehab. Over the past two seasons, Martinez has combined for 20 goals.

Ronaldo Cisneros, who is on loan from Chivas, is second on the team with seven goals and has been starting at striker since Martinez's benching.

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The Associated Press