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Gonzalo Pineda explains Josef Martinez suspension & plans for Atlanta United striker

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What has already been a miserable season for Atlanta United got a little bit worse on Wednesday when the club announced the suspension of star striker Josef Martinez.

According to a club statement, the decision was taken due to ‘conduct detrimental to the team’ from Martinez, who will miss this weekend’s match against Toronto FC and is only scheduled to return to team activities on Monday, September 12.

Atlanta United provided no further information beyond the details included in a short press release. However, a report from The Athletic’s Felipe Cardenas stated the suspension is the result of an altercation between Martinez and Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda that took place following a 2-1 loss to the Portland Timbers on Sunday.

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Cardenes reported that Martinez walked into the locker room after the match – in which he came off the bench and scored his side’s only goal of the game – and, in frustration, kicked over a catering table. Pineda emerged from a separate room and confronted Martinez, with the pair needing to be physically separated.

First of all, Pineda insisted he and Martinez kept their distance from each other, that things never got physical, but that the striker’s conduct was still sufficient to warrant a suspension.

“We were arguing, we were having a discussion, but we were always two-to-three yards away from each other,” Pineda told reporters on Thursday. “We did not have a physical altercation.”

He added: “This time we felt it was the right time to take action.”

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Pineda revealed that it was a collective decision to suspend Martinez, taken between himself, his staff, and members of Atlanta United’s front office following numerous on and off-field incidents this season. And though the head coach added that Martinez has not apologized to him personally, Argentine playmaker Thiago Almada revealed that his teammates have received an apology.

The report also revealed that Martinez had refused to take place in certain training drills a few weeks prior to the Portland match in frustration at not starting matches – the Venezuela international has come off the bench in each of Atlanta’s last four games, scoring in two of them.

Pineda isn’t the first Atlanta United head coach to come to blows with Martinez. Both Gabriel Heinze and Frank de Boer endured tumultuous relationships with the 29-year-old striker, who has often been public with his various frustrations.

But the fact remains that even if he isn’t quite his former, pre-ACL injury, self, Martinez remains an elite striker in this league. The Venezuelan has scored an incredible 110 goals in just 154 appearances for Atlanta United across all competitions and is the fastest-ever player to reach 100 goals in combined MLS regular-season and Playoffs competition.

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Martinez’s goals have led the team to MLS Cup, US Open Cup, and Campeones Cup titles and the striker has been a constant for the club ever since their inaugural 2017 season.

Is that list of achievements enough to warrant excusing such behavior? For Pineda, it’s a question of output vs culture with a simple answer.

“I was very clear with him that he’s welcome back on Monday,” he said. “He’s valuable to all of us here, he’s a great player. And I want him back. It’s just a matter of what is more important, the culture or scoring goals? And for me, culture. It’s culture over anything.”

Building on his point about the culture he’s looking to build around the club, Pineda added: “I was in the Academy the other day and we were telling the kids values that we like: humility, teamwork, and commitment. If I value more the goals than the culture, what is the message to those kids that we all spoke in front of them? I don’t know.”

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As he mentioned, Pineda has left the door open for Martinez to return and redeem himself. What’s more, the Mexican head coach went out of his way to express his admiration for the striker and all the positives he brings to Atlanta United.

“We’re all human beings, we all have good sides and we all have bad sides,” Pineda said. “The good sides of Josef are massive. He’s a great person, I have no doubt about it. He has a great heart. But as anyone else, we all make mistakes.”

He continued: “We still have a good relationship and I can easily talk to him. I have nothing against him.”

The ball is now in Martinez’s court and with Atlanta United sitting 11th in the Eastern Conference and six points adrift of the Playoffs with just five games remaining, they need their top goalscorer back onside as soon as possible.

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Didier Deschamps asks PSG manager to rest Kylian Mbappe ahead of World Cup

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France manager Didier Deschamps has pleaded with Paris Saint-Germain’s Christophe Galtier to rest Kylian Mbappe with one eye on November’s FIFA World Cup.

The club football season will come to a halt throughout November and December for the World Cup to take place in Qatar, but managers are concerned about the availability of players due to an unrelenting fixture schedule.

Mbappe has already bagged 10 goals from nine games this season and has missed just one league fixture so far, while also featuring for France in each of their final two Nations League group stage games.

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Speaking to French outlet Telefoot, Deschamps aired his concerns regarding the 23-year-old: “I know he [Galtier] still wants to play Kylian. But from time to time, to be able to breathe a little bit, to have a few good minutes less, it won’t fail him – quite the contrary.”

With PSG flying so far this season and Mbappe proving key to that bright start under new manager Galtier, it’s hard to envisage a world where he is rested and rotated.

The Frenchman played the full 90 minutes in both of PSG’s two Champions League group stage fixtures so far and the pressure is on himself and PSG to deliver in Europe, having failed to win the Champions League since their rise to footballing prominence over the last decade.



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Jorghino insists Italy’s rebuild has ‘already begun’ following win over England

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Jorginho has spoken positively about the Italian national team’s future following their victory over England, using a new formation.

Italy saw off England in a 1-0 victory in matchday five of the 2022/23 Nations League group stages and did so using a 3-5-2 system, earning a deserved win after a difficult period following their Euro 2020 triumph.

Victory over the Three Lions gives Italy an outside chance of still making the Nations League finals in 2023 as they face group leaders Hungary in the final matchday, with a win enough to see them move into top spot.

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Speaking to media ahead of the vital clash, Jorginho was very confident about his national team’s new approach: “After everything that happened, it was a struggle, but the game against England really fired us up and gave us more motivation. I try to learn from past mistakes and disappointment, which is also what the coach is passing on to the players he calls up.

“I felt something different in that game and I think the reconstruction process has already begun. Now we’ve got to continue along this path,” and added, discussing the tactical tweaks: “It’s good to have an alternative that we can change to during the game or during a tournament.

“Some of our players have 4-3-3 at club level, others with three defenders, so I think this system is certainly doable. It’s interesting for the present and the future, I got along well with it.”

The Chelsea midfielder explained that victory over England has been crucial for the squad heading into the final matchday: “We have this opportunity to win the group and it’s up to us to take it.

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“Hungary have proved themselves to be tough opponents and they’ll have passionate support from the crowd tomorrow.”



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Pierre-Emerick discusses Thomas Tuchel sacking & opens up on early career struggles

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Forward Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang has admitted it was ‘sad’ to see Thomas Tuchel sacked by Chelsea.

Aubameyang left Barcelona after only signing in January of this year to return to the Premier League with Chelsea, having left Arsenal at the beginning of the year following disciplinary issues.

The move saw him reunite with Tuchel, who he thrived under while the pair worked together at Borussia Dortmund.

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However, Tuchel was sacked in September, just weeks after the transfer window had shut and the 33-year-old had sealed his transfer to Stamford Bridge.

Speaking to Chelsea’s official YouTube channel, Aubameyang opened up: “It’s obviously sad when someone leaves the club and obviously, I only saw him for a few days. But this is football and when you play football you have to adapt quickly and in some moments in the season, this can happen.

“I think he [Tuchel] was a bit frustrated and sad. Obviously, I will try to talk to him as soon as possible,” he added, before giving his verdict on Tuchel’s replacement Graham Potter:

“I think he [Potter] is a really positive person and a great character. We will try to learn with him and to win as soon as possible. I think his ideas are very clear so I think it’s going to be easy. It takes time to adapt to each other but I think it’s going to be ok.”

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Aubameyang also touched on the earlier years of his career during the interview and confessed how he had been through a lot of ‘bad moments’ unrelated to injuries: “I was okay but at the beginning of my career everyone was talking about me as a sprinter only.

“This hurts sometimes because you know where you’ve come from, you know you went through a lot of stuff and you always try your best and some people, even from your club say you’re not good at playing football.”

He praised current Paris Saint-Germain manager Christophe Galtier for lighting a fire beneath him during their time together at St-Etienne, stating: “When I arrived in Saint-Etienne, I was happy because Christophe Galtier gave me confidence and it changed everything in my career. This is where I started scoring goals.”



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