ATLANTA — Atlanta United players are on notice. DO NOT mess with Josef Martinez right now.

Do you really want to make this guy angry?

Or this guy?


He is liable to lower a shoulder into you and stiff-arm his own teammates just to take his shirt off.

And honestly, I get it. If I had the physique of a professional athlete, I would wear a shirt way less often than Josef does.

Josef is the defending MLS MVP. He has a lot of honor to defend. And right now, he is doing everything he can to get the club back to a championship level.

They just don't have the same finishing abilities as the club from last season's championship run. Not yet, anyway.

And how does Josef call them out for that after blowing a win against New York Red Bulls?

He calls them children.

Ouch.

Classic insult, especially when you are referring to fully-grown adults.

"After we recover and come back from a 2-1 deficit, we can't give up that last goal. We're not little kids. We're players with a lot of experience," Josef said on Sunday.

But that's what they did. Just pulled an all-time lazy-Sunday-afternoon early exit, and let New York tie it up in stoppage time.

This was Josef's first match back from the international break, which he spent playing for his home country of Venezuela.

United recently lost to the Chicago Fire in humiliating fashion, 5-1, without Martinez.

RELATED: Fire score 3 goals in first 13 minutes, beat Atlanta 5-1

His return is exactly what Atlanta United needs right now. Manager Frank De Boer is his biggest fan, probably. Imagine trying to get an entire roster of players to wake up, and then your enforcer shows back up to be the bad guy every once in a while.

Game. On.

"That's so important. If I am always the guy, the police agent, one time, they don't listen anymore," De Boer said Tuesday. "You have to have those type of players in your group that translate what you want. I think Josef is one of them. Especially the mental side of everybody. If you're not doing your job, you know he's on top of you."

In other words, Josef Martinez is the hero that Atlanta United needs. They probably don't even deserve him right now.

United will play in the U.S. Open Cup at Fifth Third Bank Stadium on Wednesday, against St. Louis FC.

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