Four second-half goals against Toronto FC on Saturday led to multiple awards for Atlanta United as the two goal scorers, Juanjo Purata and Thiago Almada, were both named to the MLS Team of the Week, the league announced on Monday.
His second-half hat trick against Toronto FC was record-breaking for Purata. The three goals brought Purata’s total to six on the season, which makes him the highest-scoring defender in club history and the third leading scorer for Atlanta United on the season. He also becomes just the fourth player in club history to record a hat trick.
Even more extraordinary is that all six of Purata’s goals this season have come off headers. The performance on Saturday makes him the first player since at least 2010 to score three headed goals in a single MLS match, according to Opta.
The 24-year-old joined MLS from Tigres UANL, a club in Mexico where Purata spent his entire career prior to signing with Atlanta United in June. Purata has quickly become an invaluable member of Atlanta United’s backline – and now, especially after Saturday, also a dangerous option in Atlanta’s attack.
“I’m happy, I’m excited, most of all I’m happy because the team won,” Purata said after the match. “We’re able to get three points after suffering two losses away, so that’s what’s most important, that we’re still alive. We’re still fighting and trying to get the results.”
Also receiving recognition from the league was Purata’s teammate, Thiago Almada. Almada scored the go-ahead goal and the third goal of the match for Atlanta United in the 74th minute. He took on the Toronto defense and created enough space for himself to pull off a stunning strike into the upper right corner of the net.
This was the third time Almada has been named to the MLS Team of the Week this season. He last earned the award in back-to-back weeks in May.
Almada has proven to be one of the bright young stars for Atlanta United and MLS. His 11 assists on the season is currently tied for no. 7 in the league. He also ranks among the best in MLS at shot-creating actions, progressive passes and progressive carries.
The 21-year-old is also representing Atlanta United, and MLS, on the global stage. On September 4, Almada was part of the preliminary list of callups for the Argentina men’s national team. He’ll get the chance to join Lionel Messi and some of the best stars out of Argentina for matches during the FIFA international window later this month.
“It’s a huge honor for me and my family to get called up to the national team,” Almada said. “It’s every kid’s dream to get to represent their country, so I’m very excited about it. Right now, my mind is focused on the next couple games against Orlando and Philadelphia. Then after that, my mentality will shift to the national team.”
It’s the second time this season, since Ronaldo Cisneros and Gonzalo Pineda in July, that two members of Atlanta United earned league honors in the same week.