Nashville, Tenn. — Atlanta United FC suffered a huge blow in their opening MLS match on Saturday. The team gained all three points over debut club Nashville SC, but lost their star player to a devastating injury. Josef Martinez, the club announced, had torn his ACL in the match.
Martinez, the league’s Golden Boot winner in 2018, went down in the 63rd minute, clutching his knee. He tried to play through the pain, but Martinez was eventually substituted off in the 69th minute for Adam Jahn.
The club announced that Martinez will undergo surgery on his ACL soon. He left Nissan Stadium with crutches. Martinez had one shot in the match, but did not register any targets on goal. In his MLS career, Martinez has scored 77 goals in 84 regular-season appearances. Martinez also has compiled five goals in nine postseason appearances.
Atlanta did dismantle the new MLS club in Nashville SC. Ezequiel Barco got the visitors on the board first in the 9th minute with a shot past Joe Willis. However, newly-minted Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman scored the club’s first-ever MLS goal to equalize in the 28th minute. However, before the halftime whistle blew, Emerson Hyndman scored on a bizarre play.
Hyndman made a run and was deemed onside. However, one of the assistant referees on the side raised his flag, but then quickly put it back down. With the flag raised, Nashville SC players thought the play was dead.
However, that wasn’t the only bizarre call in the match.
Toward the end of the contest, Willis came out of net and was near the center of the pitch. Barco attempted a shot toward the middle of the pitch, aiming for the empty net, but Willis handled the ball. Referee Drew Fischer elected to give Willis a yellow card, not a red.
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) March 2, 2020
- That should’ve been red: Goals happen from the middle of the pitch. Ask Carli Lloyd from the U.S women’s national team, who scored from the halfway mark in the 2015 World Cup. Or, as Michael Bradley, who did it at Azteca with the men’s national team. They happen and Willis disrupted a goal-scoring opportunity. The referees need to do better.
- Referee, what are you doing? That wasn’t the only mistake that the referees made on Saturday night. Sideline referees are told to raise the flag only when they are 100 percent sure that it is an offside call. Clearly, the call wasn’t entirely accurate or Nashville would’ve been, at least, prepared to stop the Hyndman goal.
- Nashville can build: There was a lot of question marks with Nashville SC this year. What would a team that was still building two weeks up until the start look like? There were positives in the match. The attendance was fantastic, with a total of 59,069 fans piling into Nissan Stadium. Nashville can build off the excitement of a new club.
Strong start. More to come.
All the action from tonight's thriller 📺 pic.twitter.com/QCYjMnR3uE
— Atlanta United FC (@ATLUTD) March 1, 2020
What’s next for Nashville and Atlanta?
Nashville SC will take on the Portland Timbers on Sunday night. Meanwhile, the Martinez-less Atlanta United FC will take on FC Cincinnati on Saturday.