By Maria Saporta
Atlanta United fever hit a new high Wednesday when Josef Martinez was named the 2018 MVP of Major League Soccer.
The large assembly area in the Arthur M. Blank Family Office was filled to the brim with television crews and journalists from places far and near.
Martinez is the first player in Atlanta United’s history to be named an MVP, and he is the first Venezuelan in MLS history to win the award.
He also became the fifth player in the history of major professional sports in Atlanta to win his league’s MVP award — Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan won in 2016, and for the Braves Chipper Jones (1999), Terry Pendleton (1991) and Dale Murphy (1982, 1983) won National League MVP’s.
During the press conference, Martinez as visibly moved by the recognition – becoming emotional when talking about his grandmother who was in the room.
Martinez was given the award for breaking the MLS single-season scoring record with 31 goals – breaking the previous record of 27. Martinez earned nearly 48 percent of the votes in the MVP polling of players, management and the media. Martinez’s teammate, midfielder Miguel Almirón, came in second, receiving 15 percent of the votes.
The designation of MVP came four days before Atlanta United will face the Portland Timbers on Dec. 8 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium during the MLS Cup Finals.
Atlanta United owner Arthur Blank said he feels the same excitement about the MLS Cup Finals as he did two years ago when the Atlanta Falcons made it to the Super Bowl.
“I don’t want to end up with the same feeling,” Blank joked – referring to the Atlanta Falcons’ dramatic loss against the New England Patriots in overtime after leading nearly the entire game.
Meanwhile, Blank said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms already is planning to hold a parade next week – assured that the soccer franchise will break the curse of Atlanta teams coming up short.
As Blank said, it’s been since 1995 since Atlanta has had a sports-related parade – when the Atlanta Braves won the World Series.
“The city could not be more excited,” Blank said.