ATLANTA – Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada was voted the Major League Soccer Player of the Matchday presented by Continental Tire for the first matchday of the 2023 MLS season.
Almada scored both the game-tying and game-winning goal in stoppage time as part of the club’s 2-1 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, Feb. 25. Almada became the fourth player in MLS history to score both a game-tying and game-winning goal in the 90th minute or later, and the first to accomplish the feat since Real Salt Lake’s Albert Rusnák in 2018 (August 18 vs. Houston Dynamo FC). His game-winning direct free kick goal in the 99th minute was the latest game-winner in Atlanta United history and also the latest game-winning direct free kick score in MLS since 2003.
After San Jose took the lead 12 minutes into the match, Almada equalized in the 93rd minute when Brooks Lennon played the ball to him off a corner kick. The Argentine then dribbled past one defender and hit a perfect shot off the underside of the crossbar and into the goal (Watch Here). With just seconds left, the World Cup winner provided a moment of magic from a direct free kick, curling it over the wall and past the outstretched goalkeeper to give the Five Stripes a season-opening win in Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Watch Here).
Almada’s brace was the first of his career after he produced six goals and 12 assists in his debut MLS season in 2022. With his two goals, he joins Josef Martínez, Miguel Almirón, and Héctor Villalba as the only players in club history to produce 20 goal contributions in his first 30 MLS games. Since the start of 2022, Almada is the youngest player (21 years, 308 days) in the league with at least 20 combined goals and assists.
Almada becomes the first Atlanta United player to win MLS Player of the Matchday presented by Continental Tire since Ronaldo Cisneros in Matchday 10 of 2022. The Argentine midfielder is now the fifth player in club history to win the award (Martínez, Almirón, Cisneros, and Ezequiel Barco).
The MLS Player of the Matchday presented by Continental Tire is selected each matchday of the regular season through both media and fan voting in a process conducted by MLS Communications. A panel of journalists from the North American Soccer Reporters (NASR) comprises 75 percent of the vote, while a Twitter fan vote represents the remaining 25 percent of voting. NASR consists of members of print, television, radio, and online media.
Atlanta returns to MLS action Saturday, March 4 when it hosts Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium (7:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass, Star 94, La Mejor).