For the many fans of first year team Atlanta United the news that came down today was quite upsetting. Star striker Josef Martinez will miss the next 4-6 weeks through an injured left quad sustained on international duty for Venezuela. Now for most teams this would be quite worrisome, but for Atlanta United this should not be nearly as big an issue. Now you might think, “Alex, how does losing the golden boot leader for the next month or so not qualify as a major issue?” The following are a few reasons why this will not be as major as it could be.
The first reason this injury is not as crucial as it would appear is the presence of Kenwyne Jones. While he brings a different style of attacking play to the field, the Trinidad and Tobago international has proven to be a goal scorer throughout his career. With Martinez preferring the ball be played into space for him to run onto it will be a bit of an adjustment for the rest of the Atlanta United attacking group to play with Jones who is more of a target forward who is good in the air. While this could be an issue, I doubt it will be as Jones was in camp and thought to be the number 1 option until Martinez was brought in. This means there should already be some familiarity with his play style within the group.
Another reason Atlanta United fans should not worry is the addition of 22 year old striker Bryan Rochez. He was acquired off waivers from Orlando City FC before the international break and has spent the break in training with the majority of the squad. If called upon, the Honduran should be able to provide a solid presence up from having scored 31 goals in his first 73 senior club appearances. This nose for goal could present Atlanta United with another option in the absence of Josef Martinez.
Another reason that fans should not be afraid of Josef Martinez missing time through injury is the quality of young players on the roster. Brandon Vazquez and Andrew Carleton could be given an opportunity to prove themselves in games if their performance in training sessions is deemed up to par by coach Tata Martino. We are seeing it in Germany right now where 18 year old Christian Pulisic is getting an opportunity to play at Borussia Dortmund despite his age. When it comes to young players we as Americans tend to be afraid of ruining a young player like what happened with Freddy Adu, but at some point we have to look at the younger generation and see if they are good enough to compete for games with established players. Maybe this is the time for both of these young American youth products to prove themselves to this team.
No matter what option Tata Martino decides to go with the decision will be boosted by the play of Yamil Asad, Miguel Almiron and Tito Villalba. With those three continuing to play at the same level there could be no striker on the field and the ball could still find its way into the back of opponents net.