It was the debut that Atlanta United supporters had been waiting for. Giorgos Giakoumakis, the new striker the club announced in February, made his MLS and club debut on Saturday in Atlanta United's 1-1 draw with Toronto FC. Giakoumakis entered the match as a sub in the 59th minute.
In his first taste of action in MLS and with Atlanta United, Giakoumakis said that he found the pace was a good fit for his playing style. He was encouraged by the team's performance and their ability to possess 67 percent of the match against Toronto.
“I felt that it suits me a lot," he said. "We will create a lot, score lots of goals, and I'm honestly really happy with that. We can see that there is a huge improvement since the last game. We dominated the game. We had the possession of the ball. We can tell that we showed today that we are a big team, and that we can achieve many things.”
When he first came on, Giakoumakis received a warm welcome from the 17s at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The more than 42,000 supporters in attendance gave their new striker a loud ovation when they saw him for the first time wearing the 17s' kit on the pitch.
"First of all, the fans were amazing," Giakoumakis said. "I have to thank them because they welcomed me so warmly and the atmosphere was incredible. I think it would be even better if I could combine the atmosphere with the performance, because I think the performance would have been really good with a win and with three points."
In just about 30 minutes of play, Giakoumakis gave supporters a glimpse of why he led the Scottish Premiership in scoring for the 2021-22 season. The Greek international describes himself as a proper nine who likes to finish, and he nearly did that just 20 minutes into his debut. Around the 77th minute, Giakoumakis finished what appeared to be the game-winner off a rebound from a Juanjo Purata header on goal. However, the goal was called back (and confirmed via VAR) because Purata was ruled offside on the initial shot, quashing what would've been a storybook moment for Giakoumakis in his debut.
"What he brought is that energy," Pineda said when asked about Giakoumakis. "You can see how he's fully committed to running inside the box, to have double-movement, to counter-press, to make runs in behind. His energy just attracts some action. The goal comes from him kind of blocking a little bit of the defender from [Matheus] Rossetto’s shot, and his pressing is just imposing. Once again, once he starts to gel out with the other players, he's going to be great.”
The fact that Giakoumakis was even able to make his debut is a testament to his mental strength. Heading into Saturday's match, the striker had only trained with the team once. He had a long flight back to Atlanta Thursday night and participated in training on Friday after getting his visa approved.
Pineda said that he was worried he might've given the striker too many minutes, based on the travel and quick turnaround Giakoumakis endured leading up to matchday. After the match, Giakoumakis confirmed that his fitness level is continuing to build and that he's working himself toward feeling well-rested and being able to go a full 90 minutes.
“I was feeling a little bit tired, too much travel with the visa and all that stuff, normal process," Giakoumakis said. "So, next week I think it is going to be totally different."
But perhaps the most striking aspect while speaking to Giakoumakis after the match was the fact that, even though it was his debut, even though he only went about 30 minutes, he wasn't happy. The 28-year-old has very high expectations of himself and an insatiable appetite to score goals -- which is exactly what you want out of a striker. Even though he's brand new to MLS and Atlanta United, he's not giving himself any passes.
“I demand a lot of myself," he said. "Even if I score a hat trick, I will not be happy sometimes. I may be too egoist, and I know it’s not good. But this is me."