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Disciplined approach for Martínez key to better showing for Philadelphia Union against NYCFC

El Brujo was sent off in the 16th minute in the previous meeting between the Eastern Conference rivals

Carl Gulbish

Through 27 games with the Philadelphia Union, José Andrés Martínez has shown to be one of the team’s biggest weapons when he’s playing under control and one of their Achilles heels when his lack of discipline gets the best of him.

The latter was the case back on May 1 when the Union hosted NYCFC. Martínez’s tussle with notorious flopper Valentín Castellanos put the hosts in the hole in the 16th minute when video review led to the Venezuelan international midfielder’s early exit for violent conduct.

It was the first red card of his Union career (to go with 11 yellow cards), but it perhaps couldn’t have been more damaging with the Union already down 1-0 on a fifth minute goal in a game they would go on to lose 2-0. Martínez also had to serve a three-game suspension, which ended up not being as damaging as it maybe could’ve been thanks to the play of Leon Flach but it was still a hard lesson to learn.

Martínez went on to miss three additional games while away with Venezuela for the Copa America but the time away was also kind to him as he played well and possibly put himself in better position for an eventual transfer to bigger and better things. It also showed a different look with Martínez out wide and more involved in the attack.

His return — aside from his yellow card and penalty performance in the Concacaf Chamions League last week — has been marked by quietly dominant performances and a run of five straight games without a yellow card that earned him a reduction of a card for good behavior. He’s now two away from a yellow card accumulation suspension instead of one heading into tonight’s rematch with NYCFC at Subaru Park.

“It’s something he’s improved on and will continue to get better at as he gets to know the league better and the referees and that kind of thing,” Union head coach Jim Curtin said on Tuesday. “Obviously now we play against New York City FC where he had the mistake and the red card last game so hopefully he’s learned from that and plays right on the razor’s edge of physical and aggressive but not going too far.”

Defender Jakob Glesnes is one yellow away from a suspension and Sergio Santos and Jack Elliott are with Martínez in being two away. Olivier Mbaizo is serving a yellow card suspension for tonight’s game.

“As the yellow cards stack up, you want to be disciplined, you want to be smart,” Curtin said. “Obviously there are going to be certain moments of the game if it means saving a goal let’s still take a foul and be smart.”

Three points are a priority for the Union tonight as they sit in fifth place in an Eastern Conference that is a log jam from second through eighth. NYCFC sits in second — 12 points behind the New England Revolution — but is just three points clear of the Union. The Union are only four points clear of eighth place Columbus Crew.

“We’re still in the middle of the pack where if we beat New York City FC we’re tied with them but if we lose and a couple of the results don’t go our way we could find ourselves below the red line,” Curtin said. “That’s just the way it is this year without playing the Western Conference hardly at all.”

Tonight’s game is slated for a 7:38 p.m. kickoff but some inclement weather is also in the forecast. It will be broadcast live on PHL17 and PhiladelphiaUnion.com locally and on ESPN+ for out-of-market fans.