Diego Martinez had just three league appearances in the first six months of the Major League Soccer season.
But after a strong 90-minute performance in a friendly against Necaxa last Friday, the New York City FC outside back came off the bench and had a solid second half in Sunday’s 3-1 loss to D.C. United at RFK Stadium.
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Martinez had an assist in his previous appearance – a 5-1 win over the Colorado Rapids at Yankee Stadium on July 30.
On Sunday, he replaced an injured Ronald Matarrita at halftime and nearly struck for his first NYCFC goal when he put a blast on frame from just outside the 18-yard box in the 55th minute only to be denied by Bill Hamid. The D.C. United goalkeeper made a diving save to get one hand on the attempt.
“Personally I’m happy with this recent stretch of games before the playoffs,” Martinez said. “Coach is giving me the confidence to play. I’m very happy. I thank God that I am getting the opportunity to play. I think I am taking advantage of it to the maximum.”
Following a disappointing first half that saw NYCFC concede three times and trail 3-0 at the break, NYCFC played better after halftime and pulled a goal back on a David Villa penalty kick.
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The chances were there in the second half and the optimism remains strong heading into the regular season finale against Columbus Crew SC next Sunday at 4 p.m. at Yankee Stadium.
A win or a tie in that game clinches second place in the Eastern Conference for NYCFC, which means a bye into the Eastern Conference semifinals.
“Now we have the last game at home,” Martinez said. “It will surely be a difficult game and we are very excited to try and come out ahead.”
Get your tickets below for the last home match of the regular season against Columbus Crew SC October 23 at 4 PM ET.