The Brazil-born midfielder ended it as Atlanta United’s hero.
It was a pinch-me moment for Firmino, who was also making his MLS debut.
“It’s better than I imagined, really,” he reflected. “To come on for about 10 minutes, and then to score the game-tying goal as well. I’m very happy with the result.”
Rising through the ranks
Firmino has enjoyed a fantastic start to the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season with ATL UTD 2 and ranks tied for second in the league with eight goals while adding three assists in 14 appearances. He signed with Atlanta’s second team last year, continuing in the lower divisions of American soccer after spending 2018-20 as a New England Revolution homegrown player.
Firmino got the call-up alongside academy product Luke Brennan, who also subbed in against NYCFC during the 87th minute. Head coach Gonzalo Pineda had full faith in them, helping fill out the matchday squad as stars like Thiago Almada (Argentina) and Giorgos Giakoumakis (Greece) return from the June international window.
“They deserve it; they have good performances with the second team,” Pineda commented. “We keep track of that, and coaches are paying attention to what they do there. We are in constant communication with their coaching staff of the second team and then they deserve it.
“That’s number one. Number two, we need them. And then number three, yesterday I told them that’s why I called them up because they deserved it, and they performed very well. We’ve been watching live a few games at home and I think they’re up to the standard.”
Firmino’s goal canceled out Gabriel Pereira’s brace for NYCFC, which looked poised to end the visitors’ lengthy winless streak. Instead, the Cityzens have now gone 10 games without securing all three points (0W-5L-5D stretch).
Conversely, Atlanta are fifth in the Eastern Conference table and reached seven games unbeaten (2W-0L-5D). ATLUTD also showcased impressive depth, as four homegrowns started and six appeared in the match, both setting club records.
Firmino hopes his goal, joined by Tyler Wolff's own strike for Atlanta, is the first of many to come.
“Special moment, you know,” he noted. “To make my debut here at home, especially, and to score the goal was the cherry on top.”