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Historic Martinez hat trick lifts Atlanta over Rooney’s DC United

Los Angeles (AFP) – Josef Martinez produced his Major League Soccer-record sixth career hat trick Saturday to lead Atlanta United to a 3-1 victory over Wayne Rooney and DC United.

With a league-leading 22 goals in 22 appearances this season, Venezuelan-born Martinez is on pace to break the MLS season scoring record of 27 goals held by Roy Lassiter, Chris Wondolowski and Bradley Wright-Phillips.

“I think that when one has the possibility to have someone in the kind of form that Josef is in right now all you can really do is sit back and watch and try to enjoy it,” said Atlanta manager “Tata” Martino. 

“I’m pleased with the way he’s scoring the goals, that it’s coming as a function of the team and that leaves me calm.”

In a clash between league-leaders Atlanta and a DC United team languishing in last place in the Eastern Conference, it was visiting DC that struck first.

A one-touch pass from Rooney found Paul Arriola in flight. Arriola’s pass freed Zoltan Stieber and the Hungarian fired past Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan for a 1-0 lead in the eighth minute.

Martinez knotted the score at 1-1 in the 30th, heading home Hector Villalba’s cross from close range.

Martinez put Atlanta ahead in the 54th minute, heading home a deflected cross at the far post.

He completed his hat trick on a counter attack after a Miguel Almiron through ball was blocked but fell favourably to Martinez who easily rounded DC goalkeeper David Ousted to score in the 73rd.

Martinez broke the MLS record for career hat tricks he had shared with Stern John and Diego Serna. John played for Columbus in the late 1990s and Serna played for the now defunct Miami Fusion.

Martinez’s exploit meant Atlanta spoiled former England star Wayne Rooney’s first start for his new club DC United.

The 32-year-old Rooney, England’s all-time leading goal scorer, was the centre of attention when he came on as a substitute in his DC United debut July 14, playing a role in two goals from Arriola as DC beat Vancouver 3-1.

After gaining the starting nod from manager Ben Olsen, Rooney was replaced by Darren Mattocks after a relatively quiet 66 minutes.

Elsewhere, Zlatan Ibrahimovic delivered a goal and an assist as the Los Angeles Galaxy stretched their unbeaten run to seven games with a 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Union.

Ibrahimovic’s game-winner came in the 63rd minute off a crisp pass from substitute Romain Alessandrini. The Swedish star set up the equalizer earlier in the half with a well-placed through ball to Ola Kamara.

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