It’s Thiago Almada’s world and we’re all living in it.
Atlanta United’s star midfielder rescued a 2-1 win vs. the San Jose Earthquakes on MLS is Back weekend, scoring two second-half stoppage time goals to set off raucous scenes Saturday evening at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The 21-year-old Designated Player, fresh off helping Argentina win the FIFA 2022 World Cup, first went bar down in the 93rd minute to bring Atlanta level after Jeremy Ebobisse's first-half opener for the visitors.
Then the 2022 MLS Newcomer of the Year provided a bring-the-house-down moment, curling home a stunning 99th-minute free kick past Quakes goalkeeper Daniel. With one strike, he spoiled head coach Luchi Gonzalez's first match in charge of San Jose.
This past winter, Almada became MLS’s first-ever active World Cup winner and 13th overall to raise the game’s biggest trophy. That followed a debut season with Atlanta where he tallied six goals and 12 assists in 29 games.
Almada is the most-expensive incoming transfer in MLS history, arriving before the 2022 campaign for a reported $16 million from Argentina’s Velez Sarsfield. With an eye on eventually moving to Europe, Almada could rival the reported MLS-record $26 million Miguel Almiron commanded in the winter of 2019 when moving from Atlanta to English Premier League side Newcastle United.
Atlanta, playing without new DP striker Giorgos Giakoumakis (visa issues), took all three points before a season-opening crowd of 67,538. Almada's brace ensured Luiz Araujo's first-half missed penalty kick will sting far less, too.
"He's a fantastic kid with a great mentality," said head coach Gonzalo Pineda. "What I love is his humility. When we start to talk in the locker room, the first thing I say about Thiago is his goals and he said it's about the whole team, it's about the whole effort from everyone. And I think that speaks for itself."