Paulo Neto and Atlanta United are your 2022 eMLS Cup Champions!
After knocking on the door of his first eMLS title in League Series 1 and 2, Paulo Neto broke through on Sunday in front of a roaring crowd at Austin City Limits, defeating D.C. United’s KingCJ0 by an aggregate score of 5-3 in the final.
Paulo, who signed with Atlanta United in 2018, made his way through a gauntlet of eMLS talent on his path to North America’s top prize.
Atlanta United came into the tournament as the 5th seed, drawing the winner of Last Chance Qualifier in the first round. LAFC’s Savvy Panda emerged from the 16-player Qualifier on Saturday.
Paulo got off to a strong start in the first round, bagging 4 goals before facing Sporting Kansas City’s Alekzandur. He knocked out Sporting Kansas City with a 1-0 win, before toppling Toronto’s GOALMACHINE 2-1 in a thrilling semifinal that required extra time to determine the second finalist.
The win over Toronto secured Paulo’s spot in the FIFA22 Global Series Playoffs and set up an intense final with North America’s FIFA 21 Champion, KingCJ0 of D.C. United.
After three years on the eMLS circuit together, Paulo and KingCJ0 have formed a close friendship, adding another layer of pressure to one of the most important matches of Paulo’s career. But when the first whistle sounded, a calm fell over the 19-year-old, and you could tell he only had one thing on his mind.
When it mattered most, Paulo unleashed some of his best play of the tournament. After jumping out to an early lead in Leg 1, he remained in the driver seat in Leg 2. When it was all said and done, Paulo put away 5 goals, including a clear favorite for goal of the tournament.
180 minutes of FIFA play felt like 180 minutes of real life match play as D.C. mounted a push in the second leg. But when it was all said and done, Paulo’s 5 goals, including a clear favorite for goal of the tournament, were too much for KingCJ0 to overcome.
Paulo wasted no time collecting the trophy that had eluded him in years past. The title of eMLS Cup Champion was finally his and he could hardly contain his smile as he hoisted the trophy in front of the thousands of fans, from Atlanta to Brazil, who tuned in to watch him.
“It feels amazing,” Neto told Susannah Collins after the match. “This is my third final in eMLS and now I’ve finally won. This moment means a lot to me.”