Skip to content

El Clínico: Alonso Martínez is the striker NYCFC need

The Costa Rican forward has turned into a ruthless, efficient finisher and has grabbed control of the New York City FC striker spot on the back of a team-leading eight goals.

© Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Alonso Martínez would not likely have been the first choice if you'd asked the question: "Who will be the leading goalscorer for New York City FC this season?"

Yet after 21 matches played in 2024, Martínez is just that, picking up his seventh and eighth goals of the season in a comfortable 2-0 New York City win over CF Montréal. 

New York City 2 - 0 CF Montréal: Rate the players
NYCFC win their second consecutive game – and 12th of the season – to climb over the New York Red Bulls into fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

That ties him with Santiago Rodríguez for the lead atop the NYCFC goals leaderboard. Martínez now has six more goals than the combined output of the two other strikers New York City has relied on this season, Mounsef Bakrar (two goals in 17 appearances) and Jovan Mijatović (zero goals in seven appearances). 

He’s not got much of a background as a striker, operating as a winger throughout most of his earlier career, but Martínez has been the most efficient New York City finisher in front of goal all season long. 

He makes smart runs and can hold the ball up with his back to goal, something his manager praised him for following the brace vs. Montréal. What has really set Martínez apart, though, is his consistency and effectiveness when putting his shots on goal.

Twice Hannes Wolf found him with passes behind the Montréal defense, and twice Martínez uncorked instinctive, accurate, forceful shots that goalkeeper Jonathan Sirois had no chance to stop.

It must be noted that Martínez actually missed his best scoring chance of the night, dragging a shot wide right before halftime after being played through on goal by Santi Rodríguez, a chance rated as being worth 0.66 expected goals (xG) by Opta.

The Costa Rican easily could have had his second hat trick of the season, though that miss shouldn't detract from how good both his successful finishes were. He more often than not chooses the simple, direct finish, and it's worked extremely well for him thus far in 2024. 

I am not quick to hand out nicknames, but a perfect one is sitting right there for Martínez: El Clínico, The Clinician.

It fits neatly for a player who now leads all of MLS in goals per 90 minutes (1.11, ahead of some unknown MLS standout from Inter Miami named Lionel Messi, who is in second place at 1.04).

Martínez is also right up there with the league's top-1o players when it comes to measures of shooting effectiveness: Martinéz has produced a 0.28 goals/shot ratio (8 goals on 29 shots), which is good for seventh place among all MLS players.

He has not played the most minutes, and he hasn't had the clearest role throughout the season, but his impact has been huge almost every time he's taken the pitch, far beyond what many around NYCFC likely expected heading into the season.

This was meant instead to be a breakout year for one of the many young high-priced attackers New York City imported this winter, or a final chance for Talles Magno to make the leap and live up to his high salary and Designated Player billing.

Instead, there have been growing pains and stops-and-starts for all the young attacking imports, while Talles Magno has seemed to fade from NYCFC's plans and looks increasingly likely to leave during this summer transfer window.

Talles Magno transfer rumors link him to Brazil
The 22-year-old attacker is being connected with possible moves to two clubs in Brazil’s Serie A, though NYCFC are reportedly asking for a hefty transfer fee to part with their little-used Designated Player.

El Clínico has picked up the slack, hitting new goal-scoring heights for his career. His eight goals equal the most Martínez has scored in a season outside of Costa Rica, matching the amount he scored with Lommel SK in 2022-2023 in the Belgian second division.

He might lack the physical qualities of a Christian Benteke, who dominates in the air and is an imposing figure opposing defenses have to account for at all times. 

He's not turning to skill checks or making great 1-v-1 plays, Martínez is simply getting into the right positions for his teammates to find him and making little to no mistake with his scoring chances.

New York City will need him to hold onto this form as the club now embarks on a four-match road trip leading into the Leagues Cup break at the end of July. Goal-scoring away from home hasn't come easy, but if El Clínico keeps hosting his one-man scoring clinics, positive results might follow, even away from home.