Major League Soccer

Gonzalo Pineda 'prepared' if Josef Martinez is sidelined for Atlanta United

Chris Smith
Martinez has scored seven goals in his last eight MLS appearances for Atlanta United.
Martinez has scored seven goals in his last eight MLS appearances for Atlanta United. / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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Atlanta United manager Gonzalo Pineda isn't worried about the prospect of facing the Philadelphia Union without Josef Martinez on Saturday.

The Venezuelan striker is very quickly returning to the sort of form he consistently produced prior to his ACL tear in March 2020.

In his last eight MLS appearances, Martinez has found the net seven times, including scoring his 99th goal for Atlanta United to help the club beat DC United 3-2 last time out.

But Martinez could be seen limping during the final minutes of that match, with the striker since missing a substantial amount of training time with the full squad.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Pineda revealed that medical examinations on Martinez's knee had come back all clear, but his status for this weekend remained "day-to-day".

"We did tests with him, all the doctors checked him and nothing major came out of that," Pineda said. "He's going to be on the sides, training on his own a little bit, and it's a day-by-day case. We will see."

Unlike in 2020 and earlier this season, the Five Stripes have coped well recently when Martinez has been absent.

Their 3-0 home win over rivals Orlando City was a great example, with Pineda fielding a front three of Ezequiel Barco, Marcelino Moreno and Luiz Araujo. All three are capable of playing both on the flanks and through the middle, and interchanged positions throughout the match, making it extremely difficult for the Orlando defence to track their movements.

Asked what his options were if Martinez was rested against the Union this weekend, Pineda was confident he had enough in his locker.

"We are prepared, there are tactical adjustments," said Pineda. "We have different types of players. Cubo Torres who can perfectly cover. We can play with Marcelino (Moreno), Barco, Luiz Araujo. We have plenty of options, that's a good problem to have and we will see what's best for the team."

The Five Stripes are currently enjoying a run of seven wins from their last eight games, rising up to sixth in the Eastern Conference as a result.

After their trip to the Union - who are seventh - Atlanta host Inter Miami in another key battle in the fight for the playoffs.

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