Atlanta United 2-1 San Jose Earthquakes: That’s why he’s a World Cup winner! Thiago Almada scores two STUNNING injury time goals from long range to lead his side to victory in front of 67,000 delirious fans in an epic MLS opener in Georgia
A World Cup winner scoring a stoppage time, match-winning double – both stunning strikes from long range – in front of 67,000 fans. Major League Soccer couldn’t have dreamed of a more thrilling advert for the 2023 season from Atlanta United.
Argentina international Thiago Almada propelled his team to a breathtaking victory against San Jose Earthquakes with two sensational late injury time goals at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The Quakes took the lead after just 12 minutes through Jeremy Ebobisse and looked to have held on for an opening day victory on the road – until Almada stepped up.
His first came in the third minute of added time, collecting the ball on the edge of the area from a short corner and unleashing a blistering drive that crashed in off the underside of the crossbar.
Most of Atlanta would have settled for a point at that stage, but not Almada.
Thiago Almada scored two brilliant late goals to lead Atlanta to victory over San Jose
Almada scored a free kick in the ninth minute of added time as Atlanta snatched three points
In the ninth minute of added time, Almada stepped up on a free kick and whipped the ball over the Quakes’ wall and into the top corner, despite goalkeeper Daniel getting fingertips on the strike.
It sent the thousands of fans crazy in Georgia and sees Atlanta make a winning start to the season after losing last year’s star striker Josef Martinez to Inter Miami in the offseason.
And it came on a big day for MLS – the first matchday of AppleTV’s ‘Season Pass’, its 10-year, $2.5billion broadcasting deal that allows fans to watch games all over the world and takes American soccer to a truly global platform.
The 67,000 fans in Atlanta were part of a capacity crowd that was bigger than any Premier League game in England on Saturday, too.
MLS needs stars like Almada – who played once in Argentina’s World Cup triumph in Qatar last year as a substitute against Poland. He picked up where he left off last year, when he scored six goals and provided 12 assists in his debut MLS season after a $16m move from Velez Sarsfield in his native Argentina.
‘What can I tell you about Thiago? I’m sure he was man of the match but it is not just about the goals he scores,’ coach Gonzalo Pineda said.
‘The whole game he was proactive in getting the ball and touches in the final third and he is always looking to attack and find ways to create.
‘Defensively he was doing a lot of pressing, trying continuously to press aggressively. I cannot say any more than that, he is a fantastic kid and what I love is his humility.
‘In the locker room I say about his goals, he says it is about the whole team and the whole effort. He is an unselfish player, today he was the hero but he is willing not to be the hero as long as we win.’
Almada’s late rally demonstrated why he is one of Major League Soccer’s finest talents
Atlanta coach Gonzalo Pineda praised Almada’s ‘humility’ after the incredible victory
‘It was an emotional game, the end of the game was special. It was an amazing golazo from Thiago (to win it), it was very special for us and I hope the fans are happy with that.
‘We are messaging continuously that we want more shots from inside the penalty area! I hope we can improve on that. We won with two shots from outside the box – it’s hard to tell the players not to shoot outside the box when they do that.
‘I thought the team played very well at times and was on the front foot for the majority of the game. Two goals in that moment of the game is testament to the mentality I want.’
Atlanta is back at home next week against Toronto while San Jose Earthquakes host Vancouver.