Jose Martinez was initially referred to as a project by Sporting Director Ernst Tanner when he was signed in the offseason, but after six matches for the Philadelphia Union the more appropriate word for the 26-year-old Venezuelan is weapon.
Though he’s been shown yellow cards in four of his six matches for the Union and sat out a one-game suspension after the MLS Disciplinary Committee weighed in on a challenge that earned him a yellow against Inter Miami, he’s also helped cement the midfield for head coach Jim Curtin.
He’s on his way to becoming for Jim Curtin what Brazilian midfielder Casemiro is for Real Madrid. They have a similar style of play, Martinez and Casemiro: play the ball off the ground often, aggressive pressing and playing long balls while also racking up fouls and yellow cards (Casemiro had 12 yellows last season).
Martinez is very good at intercepting, passing, blocking the ball and tackling. He has an aggressive and assertive style to return the ball to his team. This naturally draws the attention of the referee in terms of fouls and cards but it also works within the system to have a player like Martinez aggressively challenging and winning the ball in the midfield.
Believe it or not, Martinez wasn’t whistled that often for fouls in his five games in the MLS is Back Tournament. He had 10 fouls in five games in Florida (tied with Jamiro Monteiro and Mark McKenzie for third on the team behind Sergio Santos and Alejandro Bedoya) and 12 total so far when including his one previous game for the team back in March.
The Venezuelan was brought in during the offseason from Zulia FC to shore up the midfield after the departure of veteran Haris Medunjanin, but initially it was the acquisition of Matej Oravec from Slovakia that drew more attention. Oravec has yet to make his debut in the Union’s eight games (all competitions) in 2020.
Martinez, meanwhile, is the one becoming a fan favorite and the player expected to start in Curtin’s first choice XI.
He’s been elevated rather quickly to this level because he is not afraid to hold the ball in dangerous places and make any tackle around. When opponents try to create anything on Philly’s side of the field, he’s often there to jump in and stop the player, block or cut down passes. He’s also shown to be a very good dribbler and reads the game very well.
His tenacious style and ability to travel around the field to create advantages for his teammates made him a key piece of the Union’s success in Florida and while he has asserted himself quite well the room for improvement still apparent in El Brujo’s game is perhaps what is most exciting about him as a player still adjusting to a new team and new league.
Now that the regular season is resuming in New England tonight, hopefully that improvement can continue. The Union game will be broadcast live on PHL17 and on PhiladelphiaUnion.com in-market at 7:30 p.m. Out-of-market fans can catch the game on ESPN+.