Major League Soccer

‘Hungry’ Martinez to return as Atlanta visits Fire

mls3FIRE (4-7-7) VS. ATLANTA UNITED FC (9-6-2)
8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, DAZN, FSS

Josef Martinez is expected to return to the pitch when Atlanta United visit the Chicago Fire on Wednesday.

The Atlanta United star forward just got done playing for the Venezuela national team at the Copa America in Brazil and an appearance against the Fire would be his first MLS contest since June 1.

Ironically, the Fire were the opponent that day as well as Martinez scored both goals in Atlanta’s 2-0 victory.

Atlanta United veteran midfielder Jeff Larentowicz expects to see a fired-up version of Martinez, who has 10 goals in 15 matches this season after setting the MLS record with 31 goals last year.

“I guarantee we’re getting a hungrier player back,” Larentowicz told reporters after Saturday’s 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact. “Josef is a guy that’s always playing when he’s here, and he goes away with Venezuela and he has a different role for that team, so I’m sure he’s coming back into his domain, feeling hungry.

“It’s good for us … to have a hungry player like that. Josef already is naturally that way but I think he’ll be itching to get back on the field.”

Atlanta (9-6-2, 29 points) is looking for its fourth victory in five matches as it matches up against a Chicago squad that is 0-3-3 over its last six matches.

The Fire (4-7-7, 19 points) are coming off a 3-1 road loss against the New York Red Bulls. But Chicago has been strong at home with a 4-1-4 mark compared to being winless on the road (0-6-3).

“We’re happy to be back at home on Wednesday, where we’ve been pretty strong the last couple of weeks, the last couple of months,” Fire midfielder Dax McCarty told reporters. “The best news is that we play one of the best teams in the league, so we can’t feel sorry for ourselves. We have to dust ourselves off and get ready for a big test.”

Chicago will again be without midfielder Djordje Mihailovic, who is playing in the Gold Cup for the United States national team. The Fire hope to have defender Francisco Calvo available as his Costa Rica team has been eliminated from the Gold Cup.

Chicago defender Johan Kappelhof (thigh) is questionable.

Atlanta traded forward Romario Williams to the Columbus Crew for $100,000 in General Allocation Money on Monday, and also acquired midfielder Emerson Hyndman via loan from AFC Bournemouth of the English Premier League.

–Field Level Media

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