Union’s Jose Martinez admits his fault, owns up to suspension

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The 40th minute of the Philadelphia Union’s 2-1 win against Inter Miami CF late Tuesday night produced a moment that most Union fans hope to never see again out of their physical and at times electric defensive midfielder, Jose ‘El Brujo’ Martinez.

Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Martinez was knocked down by Miami defender Andres Reyes as the two players attempted to win a 50/50 ball deep in Philadelphia’s defensive third. Reyes could have been whistled for a foul but instead, no whistle sounded.

Martinez, out of frustration, extended his left leg and kicked out at Reyes’ groin area. Reyes turned in shock as head referee Silviu Petrescu either didn’t see the kick clearly enough or just missed it altogether.

Earlier in the match, Martinez saw yellow for unsporting behavior in the 27th minute. The kick-out against Reyes should have been his second yellow and subsequent ejection with a potential multi-match ban.

Ironically though, Reyes would see a red card shown to him in the eighth minute of second-half stoppage time after receiving a second yellow, while Martinez logged 72 total minutes before being subbed off for Warren Creavalle. Reyes will face at least a one-match suspension as a result.

But now, Martinez must face retroactive consequences for his severe lapse in judgment. Thursday afternoon, Major League Soccer’s Disciplinary Committee decided to suspend Martinez for one match and levied an undisclosed fine against the 25-year old Venezuelan native.

In their statement, the Disciplinary Committee acknowledged “an on-field referee or Video Review error”, while also stating the Committee was “unanimous that the play warrants at least a one-match suspension as a clear and unequivocal red card, is egregious and/or repeat the behavior in nature, and/or the Committee must act to protect player safety or the integrity of the game.”

Martinez has played just three matches with Philadelphia since signing this past off-season – two days before Christmas. But his short time on the pitch highlighted his physical nature, a style of aggression that many Philadelphia fans have thoroughly enjoyed. But at times, the rough play crosses that fine line between safe and “egregious.”

Martinez commented on the suspension via VIP Sports Agency yesterday, the agency that represents him as a pro footballer. The agency released the comments in a thread of tweets – first reported by Roberto Vences at wfmz.com.

The comments were released in Spanish, Martinez’s native tongue considering he is still adjusting to, at times, a steep language barrier with Philadelphia.

According to Google Translate, Martinez stated that it was “totally my responsibility and I assume it. I was immature.” He accredited the brief loss of focus to the intensity on the pitch during a physical and at times gritty game of soccer.

He also mentioned that “MLS did what it had to do” and that “it was a very bad performance” on his part.

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Fans may be concerned for Martinez given his over-aggressive nature at times. But it seems El Brujo is using this moment as an opportunity to learn and grow as a player in MLS, a league with a more rigid set of rules in terms of physicality compared to the Venezuelan Primera Division where he played four full seasons prior to joining Philadelphia.

Martinez mentioned he hopes to improve his attitude and will work on being less reactionary in those intense physical moments that are bound to happen within a 90-minute match. He did acknowledge that these moments happen, but he surely hopes to not repeat it. He wants to demonstrate a positive change.

And that should be very comforting for not only Philadelphia fans but also for head coach Jim Curtin, who has mentioned discipline as a main issue in Martinez’s brief beginnings with the club. Martinez always seems to be tip-toeing along a very fine line between physical and overly-aggressive. That fine line has been described as a “razor’s edge” by Curtin. At times during both the Miami win and the NYCFC win, Curtin could be seen pointing to his head in El Brujo’s direction as if to say “be smarter.”

For now, Philadelphia will be without their ball-winning El Brujo. But Curtin has options to replace him for their next match Monday night against Orlando City SC in what will be the deciding match for the top spot in Group A. Curtin can decide between a veteran role player like Creavalle, or he can roll the dice and grant Matej Oravec a chance to make his MLS and Union debut. Or he can start Creavalle and have Oravec as a second-half sub. Either way, they’ll be missing El Brujo and will hope that their attacking players can create some eye-popping offensive moments once more.

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Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

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