Martinez, Atlanta look to take advantage of struggling LA

MLS Player of the Week Josef Martinez and red-hot Atlanta United host the Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday in a battle of two teams headed in opposite directions at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Martinez has seven goals in his last three games, including back-to-back hat tricks. He had three goals in United's 7-0 win over the New England Revolution on Sept. 13 and followed it with another three-goal performance in a 3-3 draw with Orlando City on Saturday to become only the third player in MLS history to record consecutive hat tricks.

"He's a game changer," Atlanta defender Michael Parkhurst told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Martinez. "He's invaluable for us. Obviously, he's a handful to defend against. His first step is so quick. He's always in the right spot in front of the goal. He's lethal and he loves to score goals."

Atlanta is unbeaten in its last nine home games and climbed into fifth place on the Eastern Conference table with seven games left in the regular season. The United (12-8-7) are trying to become the first MLS expansion franchise to reach the postseason in their inaugural season since 2009.

The Galaxy (7-15-6) are headed the other way. Los Angeles went 1-3-1 in its last five games to fall into 10th place in the Western Conference. The Galaxy didn't manage a shot on frame in a 4-1 loss to Toronto FC on Saturday. After the match, LA coach Sigi Schmid called a closed-door meeting in the locker room.

"We all need to look in the mirror, because that wasn't good enough," an angry Schmid told reporters after the loss to Toronto FC.

The Galaxy were missing several key players, but Schmid wasn't making excuses after the loss.

"We can point to all those things, but all these guys are on professional contracts, so when your number is called you've got to play like a pro," Schmid said.

United will not be at full strength for Wednesday's match. Starting fullback Greg Garza will miss his second straight match due to a hamstring injury he suffered in the win over New England.

Wednesday's game will be the first between the two franchises.

Updated September 19, 2017

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