ATLANTA — Josef Martínez, the Venezuelan forward who became a record-breaking MLS goalscorer and the first face of Atlanta United when the team launched in 2017, is moving on from the club.
A move away from Atlanta, to Miami in particular, had been rumored throughout the MLS offseason.
According to the team release, the move will be made through a contract buyout, with Martínez then joining Miami as a free agent.
“Josef has played a pivotal role in Atlanta United’s history, scoring memorable goals and hoisting multiple trophies for moments that will forever live with our supporters,” Vice President and Technical Director Carlos Bocanegra said in a statement. “He was a foundational piece who was responsible for helping build our brand into what it is today. We cannot thank him enough for his contributions to the club and the community over the last six years. He will always be part of Atlanta United and we wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.”
The move marks the end of the founding era for United.
Martínez scored 19 goals in 2017, as the the team made the playoffs in their inaugural season. The next year they won the championship, their first and so far only in MLS, behind his record-breaking season of 31 goals (the record would be broken again by another player the next year). For his efforts, Martínez won the league MVP Award that year.
He was nearly as good the next season, with 27 MLS goals, and Atlanta United again was one of the top teams in the league before falling short in the Eastern Conference Finals.
From there, though, things were never quite the same.
Martínez tore his ACL in the opening game of the 2020 season and missed the rest of that campaign and United collapsed into one of the worst teams in the league.
The next year they recovered some as Martínez's return was stop-and-go, but ultimately they went out in the first round of the playoffs. Last year, they again missed the playoffs as he dealt with more injuries
After scoring 77 MLS goals from 2017-19, he scored just 21 from 2020-22.
In the end, he scored more than 100 goals across all competitions for United - 111, precisely - becoming the team's first true club legend and leading them to four trophies.
Team owner Arthur M. Blank said in a statement:
“Since his arrival in 2017, Josef Martínez has poured his heart and soul into Atlanta United. We experienced a lot of firsts together – Atlanta United’s inaugural year, Josef’s first MLS season, a number of record-setting performances and, of course, an MLS championship together. Josef is a one-of-a kind, iconic athlete, and I’m grateful to him and his family for taking a chance on Atlanta and growing with us. He is one the most decorated MLS players of all time and has made Atlanta, and the entire league proud, while also representing his beautiful country of Venezuela with pride. I know Josef will continue to shine as he heads to the next stop on his professional journey. I’m grateful for the time we’ve had with him, and I know I speak for all the dedicated 17s when I say ‘thank you Josef.’ He is a cherished member of our Atlanta United family.”