On a night that the referee may have taken center stage, Josef Martínez made sure that the headlines belonged to him as his hat trick lead to Atlanta United FC beating the Philadelphia Union on Saturday afternoon.
Martínez now holds the record for the most hat tricks scored in Major League Soccer by virtue of being the fastest to achieve the feat. The Venezuelan managed to score five hat tricks in 34 games and with a lot of his MLS career still to go, you wouldn't bet against him holding the record outright very soon.
Philadelphia's ill-discipline gives Atlanta a huge advantage
Coming into this game, the Union may have been the more in-form team and probably had enough self-belief in themselves to get at least a draw at a difficult ground. That all changed in less than 20 minutes. Auston Trusty fouled Martínez inside his own area and Atlanta were awarded a penalty after VAR confirmed referee's call. The Union players did not agree with the call and Alejandro Bedoya talked his way into a second yellow card eight minutes after picking up his first. The red card then sparked outrage from Haris Medunjanin who then picked up two yellow cards in succession and received his marching orders right after Bedoya. Martínez kept his cool throughout and converted his penalty, putting Atlanta in the lead against a nine-man team with a lot of the game still to be played.
Atlanta had the man advantage but their overall play in the first half was sloppy. The Union have quick players in their ranks and they showed glimpses of a team still willing to fight and try to get something out of the game. With Atlanta flooding forward to try and rack up the score, the space was there for Philadelphia to find if they could move the ball quickly in transition. This did not earn the Union anything in the first half and they headed into half-time ruing their teammates rashness so early in the game.
Martínez completes his hat trick to end a Philadelphia come back
The second half followed the same pattern as the first half. Atlanta had the man advantage and pushed forward at every opportunity to try and score more goals. That advantage eventually paid off when Miguel Almirón found space to get to the byline and picked out Martínez who put Atlanta up by two in the 49th minute.
Andre Blake, who up until then had been performing heroics to keep the scoreline down, would have been delighted to see his hard work pay off when the Union pulled one back in the 52nd minute. Warren Creavalle was the first to the ball after Atlanta cleared a free kick and lobbed it over the advancing backline to find Fabrice-Jean Picault all alone inside the area. The forward finished well past Brad Guzan and gave Philadelphia the goal their attitude deserved as they continued to fight hard despite their disadvantage.
Eventually though, Philadelphia's legs tried and Atlanta began to pepper their goal constantly, trying to make sure of the three points. Fabinho then let his team down by conceding another penalty late in the game which was confirmed by VAR. Josef Martínez squared up to Blake once again and out-witted the Union goalkeeper, finishing off his night with a well-earned hat trick, and making MLS history in the process.