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2016 Player Profiles, #5: Juan Manuel Martinez

Real Salt Lake was lucky to have “Burrito” Martinez grace Rio Tinto Stadium.

MLS: LA Galaxy at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

What more is there to say about Juan Manuel Martinez? The Argentine has dazzled us all with his technical skill and cheeky individual efforts. He’s schooled some of the best defenders in the league. He’s also shown us how true the expression is that the higher you fly, the farther you fall.

Perhaps there’s more to be said about Burrito than not. Let’s start with the numbers…

In 32 games (29 starts), Martinez led Real Salt Lake in minutes played (2519), was third in goals (7) behind Joao Plata and Yura Movsisyan, and scored on 14.9% of his shots which was good for third on the team as well (as an aside: I’d argue this last point is good for first on the team as only Jordan Allen and Justen Glad were ahead of him as potential outliers). Burrito also comes in on the RSL Soapbox Writer Ratings at #5 (7.29) and the Community Ratings at #7 (7.54).

We all know numbers aren’t everything, however, as some things just can’t be quantified. If anything is proof of this, Martinez is. I’m not sure about the rest of you, but I lost count sometime around June of how many highlight reel dekes and skills he pulled off (thank you Tyler Gibbons). There should be no doubt in anyone’s mind that Burrito is an unstoppable force when he’s on his game, living up to his comments last year about not yet being 100%.

But an unstoppable force such as Burrito Martinez can be a victim of themselves as well, slowing their own momentum when others can’t. And, as we saw in the games during the twilight of 2016, that’s exactly what happened with the former Boca Juniors star. Whether this was due to a nagging injury, eroding team chemistry, or even the much-rumored disintegration of confidence in the coaching staff, Burrito’s mentality in the final third of the season left much to be desired.

Whether our hopes and dreams and overall perceptions about Martinez are forever crushed obviously remains to be seen. The unfortunately short legacy he’s left during his time in Utah will go down as a bright, blue flame that dwindled too soon. Fans and pundits alike have certainly been jaded a bit by his declined performances, and I’m sure his ratings are lower than they would’ve been for this reason. Despite this, Burrito’s first (and last) full season in the Claret-and-Cobalt was overwhelmingly positive. He lived up to his word of showing us what he was capable of. We also know a couple of his weaknesses as well, primarily the psychological susceptibility he displayed most recently.

One thing is for sure: Juan Manuel Martinez is a player RSL will be missing in the future. With the announcement on December 7th that Burrito would be returning to Argentina, there’s suddenly a massive hole to fill. His departure robs the core of our team of the much-needed creativity and sheer brilliance of a truly attacking player. Combine this with the loss of Javier Morales, and the wound deepens. Burrito showed us he was capable of playing roles the club has sorely lacked in the past. His technical prowess, which flat out embarrassed players while creating dangerous scoring chances (something our club was in desperate need of), is going to be difficult to replace. Such is life in football, however, and time moves along.

Consider Salt Lake City and every field Burrito has graced in this league to be extremely lucky to have witnessed perhaps one of the best and most dazzling attackers to play at this club.