Josef Martinez gets his revenge! MLS winners and losers as new Inter Miami star sends a message against former club Atlanta United

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Josef Martinez Inter Miami 2023
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The former MLS MVP finally netted his first goals since his offseason transfer, saving them so as to defeat his former club

Tradition has long stated that players must suppress emotions when facing their former teams. No matter the stakes, no matter the moment, players are required to refrain from celebrating out of respect for the fans, for the culture, for the club. Well, Josef Martinez isn't one for tradition. He is one for goals, though.

The Venezuelan star netted two of them against his former side, Atlanta United, over the weekend, leading the way as Inter Miami sealed a crucial win. The goals will no doubt have special meaning to Martinez, who now finally has something going with Miami.

Thus far, the former league MVP's start in Miami has been downright frustrating, having failed to score up until this weekend. But, if there's one thing we've learned about Martinez since his MLS arrival, it's that he's a competitor, a gamer, a baller. He lives for moments like these.

Can this be the spark that ignites Martinez and, more importantly, Miami, or will this just be a moment in time for a player that has had plenty of them? We'll see, but this was a memorable weekend for Martinez, and less so for the Atlanta faithful that cheered him on for years.

Martinez was just one winner from another enthralling round of MLS games - GOAL breaks down all the biggest talking points:

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  1. WINNER: Josef Martinez

    WINNER: Josef Martinez

    You just know that Martinez had this date circled for a long, long time...

    Martinez scored his 99th and 100th career MLS goals against his former club, Atlanta United, leading Inter Miami to a 2-1 victory. Those goals just had to come against Atlanta, right? His first two of the MLS season and, of course, two he'll always remember.

    Martinez joined Inter Miami after a controversial Atlanta exit, leaving the club with legendary status but plenty of frustration. The hope is that, over time, what was broken could be mended and Martinez can get a proper Atlanta sendoff. But this weekend wasn't about a sendoff: it was about revenge, even if Martinez did play it cool postgame.

    “I have a lot of respect for them and a lot of love for them,” Martinez said of his former Atlanta team-mates and fans. “What happened, that was in the past. I want to thank them for everything because nothing is forever. It’s soccer. It’s life. One day you’re here, the next day you don’t know. What a game.”

    The first goal came from the penalty spot with, wildly enough, his first touch of the game. There were no doubts about who would take the spot-kick when the moment arose, although there were some in Martinez's mind.

    “I was very nervous. That and the day my son was born were the most nervous times of my life," he said. "I didn’t know if Leo [Campana] wanted to take it, but I asked him for it. There was a lot of pressure on me. The first goal is the hardest. It was a beautiful moment I will never forget.”

    DeAndre Yedlin teed up Martinez for the second, with the Venezuelan celebrating in its aftermath. He's finally off the mark, unfortunately for Atlanta, but fortunately for Miami, who may have finally unlocked the Martinez of years past.

  2. LOSER: Gerhard Struber

    LOSER: Gerhard Struber

    Right now, the New York Red Bulls do have a built-in excuse, as the team is missing just so much attacking talent. Last year's team MVP Lewis Morgan is out, as is playmaker Luquinhas. Dante Vanzeir, the team's big offseason signing, remains suspended for using a racial slur.

    Missing key attacking pieces is enough to leave any team hurting, but the question now is if the Red Bulls can stop the bleeding in time to remain in the playoff race.

    Coach Gerhard Struber, though, will not be around long enough to answer that question.

    After the 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union, the Red Bulls announced that they have parted ways with Struber, with the club winning just one of their first 11 games. They've scored just seven goals and sit in last place in the East.

    That on-field record was enough for the Red Bulls to change direction. Add in the racism scandal, which Struber did not properly handle in the moment, and it had become clear that it was time for the Austrian to go.

    In steps Troy Lesesne, who will serve as head coach until the end of the season at least, and he'll have some big problems to fix.

    For clarity, there's no shame in losing to the Union, but this is big-picture stuff we're talking about here. The team's traditional press is creating chances, and it created a few over the weekend, but the Red Bulls simply lack the top-end attacking talent right now to do anything with those opportunities.

    Can they climb out of this big, big hole they're digging themselves? It'll take some work. Let's see if Lesesne can figure out what his predecessor could not.

  3. WINNER: Cristian Espinoza and the San Jose Earthquakes

    WINNER: Cristian Espinoza and the San Jose Earthquakes

    Talk about a statement...

    Playing in front of over 45,000 fans, the Quakes proved themselves in a big way with a 2-1 win over previously-unbeaten LAFC. It was a message to the rest of the league: under Luchi Gonzalez, this Quakes team, finally, is something different.

    While the team's statement was impressive enough, no stock has risen higher than that of Cristian Espinoza, this season's player that has gone from pretty good to supernova. The Argentine now has eight goals and three assists in 2023, emerging as not only one of the league's best playmakers, but goalscorers, too.

    Two of his goals came in this win, one in the eighth minute and another from the penalty spot in the 83rd. It obviously wasn't a direct duel with MVP frontrunner Denis Bouanga, who himself scored in the 30th minute, but it did feel something like it.

    If Espinoza keeps this pace, the Quakes will be tough to beat, but this isn't just about Espinoza. Gonzalez and co. are building after years of frustration in the Bay and, for the first time in a while, it all seems to be paying off.

  4. LOSER: LA Galaxy
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    LOSER: LA Galaxy

    It's safe to say Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez is somewhat fed up. After the LA Galaxy's 3-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids, one which left the team with only one win from its first nine matches, the Mexican star said as much.

    "We need to do different things obviously to get out of [it]," He said. "I don't know what. We need to figure it out, but we cannot keep doing the same things and waiting for the same results. It's very frustrating, man. I don't know what else to say."

    He also seemed to take something of a shot at his team-mates, calling for more accountability from the players inside the locker room: "We need so many things to change starting from, I believe that more people need to come to face [the media]. We're the same people speaking, always.

    "That's a thing that needs to change too, you know? We always speak in here [to reporters], the same guys, so I think that should change in the beginning, and then on the training ground other stuff needs to change.

    "Something needs to change, man. We need to be accountable. We need to see that the reality is not in the way that we are doing. We cannot say things are going to turn around doing the same things. We can't."

    The loss, which would have been much worse if not for an 89th-minute consolation goal from Preston Judd, really was more of the same for the Galaxy. The team is totally unsettled tactically, with formations changing from week to week. As a result, everyone looks wildly uncomfortable all the time, with the defense totally melting during every transition opportunity.

    The fact that Kevin Cabral, a failed Galaxy signing, effectively ended the game with his 65th-minute goal only added insult to injury. Making matters worse? Their summer transfer ban, which means this is essentially the team the Galaxy will roll with the rest of the way.

  5. WINNER: Sporting KC

    WINNER: Sporting KC

    Finally. That's all you can really say. After 10 games without a win to start the season, Sporting KC finally have a victory as they upset the Seattle Sounders 2-1 on Sunday. Even in a good year, a win in Seattle is a fantastic result but, in a year like this one, it's almost hard to believe for Sporting KC.

    Don't tell that to Peter Vermes, though, who says that the three points felt like a long time coming: “Ten games we didn’t have a win and we know that we played a lot of games where we played very well, but we just didn't get the result. But as I've tried to say many times, there's no doubt that the guys were dejected because of where we were and having not won, but they haven't given up or they’re not in a place where they don't believe. They continue to work very hard.”

    For the first time in years, Sporting KC started their three Designated Players - Alan Pulido, Gadi Kind and Daniel Salloi - and all three were crucial in the two goals. It's almost like having your best players is a recipe for success. Who would have thought?

    The beauty, and the hilarity, of MLS is that, despite their absolutely horrendous start, Sporting KC aren't dead yet. They're just six points out of the final postseason spot out West so, if they can use this as a jumping-off point, the season is salvageable.

    The task now is to prove this wasn't a fluke and that this team has, in fact, improved from whatever it was we saw in the first 10 weeks of the season.