ATLANTA: Josef Martínez tied the Major League Soccer record for goals in a season with 27 when Atlanta United defeated the visiting Columbus Crew 3-1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday.
On a historic day when Martínez gave Atlanta (15-6-4, 51 points) a 1-0 lead, Héctor Villalba countered a Crew goal by Gyasi Zardes for a 2-1 advantage in the 76th minute and Miguel Almirón scored six minutes later as United moved three points ahead of the New York Red Bulls for the most points in the league.
Atlanta is 4-2-0 in the past six games while Columbus (11-6-8, 39 points) had a three-game winning streak end.
After a quiet half hour, it only took a giveaway by Crew defender Jonathan Mensah for the Venezuelan forward to put his name in the record book.
Julian Gressel intercepted a soft pass at midfield and found Martínez down the left channel. Martínez dribbled with pace at three Crew players, feigned right at the top of the box then launched a left-handed shot around goalkeeper Zack Steffen.
Martínez nearly set the record in the 69th minute but his header went off the crossbar. He will get a chance to break the record on Friday at Orlando City.
He shares the MLS mark with Roy Lassiter of Tampa Bay Mutiny (30 games in 1996), Chris Wondolowski of San Jose Earthquakes (32 games in 2012), and Red Bulls’ Bradley Wright-Phillips (32 games in 2014).
Martínez’s goals have come in 25 games with nine remaining in the regular season. He has 13 goals during an eight-game goal streak.
Zardes made it 1-1 in the 50th minute with his 15th goal to tie him for second in the league with Wright-Phillips and Zlatan Ibrahimović of Los Angeles Galaxy.