THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY

Soccer 360 - - Inside -

THE GOOD

A his­toric year in any League de­serves recog­ni­tion and praise, but Josef Martinez of At­lanta United de­serves more than most for the in­cred­i­ble sea­son that he had down in Ge­or­gia. It was a record-break­ing sea­son for the for­mer Torino front man as he broke the sin­gle sea­son goal to­tal and did so com­fort­ably, scor­ing 31 times to pass the mark of 27 set by Bradley Wright-Phillips, Chris Won­dowlowski and Roy Las­siter. Martinez also played an in­te­gral part in At­lanta’s run through the MLS sea­son and the post­sea­son play­offs, scor­ing cru­cial goals to see them in the fi­nal.

Martinez also broke two more im­pres­sive records dur­ing the course of the sea­son by scor­ing in nine con­sec­u­tive games and grabbed his sixth hat-trick dur­ing his time with the Five Stripes, a record amount for a sin­gle player in MLS his­tory. Oth­ers, such as Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic and Wayne Rooney, may have had iconic mo­ments and grabbed more head­lines around the world than Martinez, but there is no deny­ing that the Venezue­lan was the MVP of the sea­son and could have put a case for­ward for win­ning the vote by a larger mar­gin.

Zla­tan came sec­ond in the vot­ing and sec­ond in the scor­ing charts — both times be­hind Martinez — but while the

fu­ture of At­lanta’s at­tack­ing mid­fielder Miguel Alm­iron is un­cer­tain and Coach

Tata Martino is de­part­ing at the end of the sea­son, the fran­chise knows that with Martinez on their books, they have a bonafide su­per­star and a fran­chise player who has the abil­ity to lead the team to fur­ther suc­cess in the fu­ture.

THE BAD

When the post­sea­son sched­ule was re­leased and seed­ings were of­fi­cially wrapped up at the end of the reg­u­lar sea­son, you would have been for­given for ex­pect­ing a strong run from one of, if not both of, New York City FC and Los An­ge­les FC given their re­spec­tive cam­paigns. In­stead, what we saw was two teams that could have been so much bet­ter and rather than give us some clas­sic games along the way, we got the op­po­site with LAFC crash­ing out in the first round against

Real Salt Lake in a con­tro­ver­sial tie and NYCFC bow­ing out in tame fash­ion against a At­lanta side that was su­pe­rior, but not un­beat­able.

In NYCFC’s case, per­haps it was too much to ex­pect a side that had a cap­tain whose fu­ture was up in the air play­ing a team who had changed Coach and style halfway through the cam­paign. While they made the play­offs with ease in the end, it wasn’t without it’s bumps and bruises along the way. Over two legs, not many teams can beat At­lanta but you would ex­pect a team with the play­ers that NYCFC has to put up a bet­ter show­ing than they did.

As for LAFC, it’s ironic that if their neigh­bours the LA Galaxy had pipped RSL to that fi­nal play­off spot in the West­ern Con­fer­ence, per­haps LAFC would have had that ex­tra bit of mo­ti­va­tion to get one over their ri­vals. In­stead, they bowed out in a con­tro­ver­sial match marred by the fans against an RSL team that had their num­ber. Dis­ap­point­ing from both sides but at least this short play­off ex­pe­ri­ence for these two sets of play­ers and man­age­ment will stand them in good stead for next sea­son, when more will be ex­pected from them.

THE UGLY

Football is meant to be an es­capism from re­al­ity. When you buy your ticket and en­ter the sta­dium through the turn­stiles, what­ever is hap­pen­ing on the out­side is bar­ri­caded off by what you’re about to wit­ness on the in­side. If you have troubles on the out­side, you leave them at the gates and for­get about them for the 90 min­utes of ac­tion on the field.

Un­for­tu­nately, some spec­ta­tors are un­able to take in the game and not act like com­plete id­iots, in par­tic­u­lar dur­ing the match be­tween LAFC and Real Salt Lake. The game it­self should be re­mem­bered as a thriller, a great ad­ver­tise­ment of what MLS can of­fer but in­stead what we saw was Nick Ri­mando, the RSL goal­keeper, pelted with trash af­ter his side equalised, de­lay­ing the game for five min­utes.

It was a game that should have had on­look­ers fawn­ing over the qual­ity on show, the style of play and the ex­cite­ment that came along with it but in the af­ter­math there was lit­tle choice but to ig­nore the ac­tion and focus on the trou­ble, which shouldn’t be the case in this day and age. LAFC and the of­fi­cial sup­port­ers group, the 3252, re­leased a state­ment con­demn­ing not only the throw­ing of ob­jects but also ho­mo­pho­bic chants from a mi­nor­ity of fans when Ri­mando was tak­ing a goal­kick.

It was a mem­o­rable tie, a clas­sic MLS fix­ture if there ever was one, but now it will go down as the game with the trash-throw­ing and ho­mo­pho­bic abuse, the op­po­site of what the sport should be about.

ABOVE:THE GOOD, Josef MartinezABOVE LEFT:THE BAD, NYCFC/ LAFCLEFT:THE UGLY, Nick Ri­mando

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