That’s two in a row for Thiago Almada.
The Atlanta United midfielder was named to MLS Team of the Week for the second consecutive time on Monday. Almada scored a goal and assisted the other in the team’s 2-2 come-from-behind draw on the road against Nashville SC on Saturday, May 21.
Almada has steadily become a strong influence in Atlanta’s attack over the last several games. In the last three MLS matches, Almada has scored two goals and two assists. Including all competitions, Almada has scored three goals in the team’s last three matches.
One of his three goals came in the U.S. Open Cup match against Nashville SC on May 11. The club lost 3-2 in extra time, but Almada contributed to both goals. He scored the first and created the giveaway that led to Luiz Araújo’s goal in the 29th minute.
Not only is Almada scoring, he’s also creating for teammates. He’s second on the team in key passes (24), and he’s forming connections with fellow attackers Araújo, Marcelino Moreno, and Ronaldo Cisneros. Those players are responsible for scoring five of the team’s most recent six goals, and there are more times when the play between them is brilliant.
“Credit to the player, he’s been very good at connecting with his teammates and looking for connections around him,” head coach Gonzalo Pineda said of Almada.
The kind of production from Almada is providing what Pineda looks for in a player who plays the no. 10 position. Atlanta United’s head coach defines a no. 10 as a player who can occupy the gaps in between the lines, then effectively produce goals and assists.
“There are not many number tens in the world, and we are happy having one of those few on our team,” Pineda said.
Almada made his first career appearance for Atlanta United on April 13 in the 2-1 win over Charlotte FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The designated player scored in his second MLS appearance against CF Montréal on March 19. His goal in the 85th minute sparked a two-goal comeback that allowed Atlanta United’s home unbeaten streak to continue.
Many wanted a designated player of Almada’s caliber to get on the field immediately, but Pineda had the bigger picture in mind when managing Almada’s minutes. The head coach eased Almada into MLS play to help the 21-year-old adjust to life in the U.S.
“My plan was progressing him so he didn’t have the weight of the team completely since the very beginning,” Pineda said.
And now, the work is showing. Almada’s emergence goes hand-in-hand with Atlanta United’s attack. The team has scored 10 goals in its last four matches, in all competitions. Cisneros scored a hat trick in Atlanta United’s 4-1 win over Chicago Fire FC on May 7, a performance that was recognized by the league and fans. Cisneros earned MLS Player of the Week, Goal of the Week and Team of the Week.
The increased production from Almada and his other attacking players illustrates Pineda’s philosophy that the best defense is more offense. Going back to Cisneros’s accolades, Atlanta United has been represented on the league’s Team of the Week for three consecutive weeks.
And with Almada in good form, the offense has even more room to grow.
“We have a fantastic player,” Pineda said. “You can call me crazy, but I still expect even more from Thiago.”