The end of the year is upon us, which means soon the league will be announcing winners for the 2023 MLS Year-End Awards, which honor the league’s top performers during the regular season. Atlanta United had seven players nominated and on Thursday that list trimmed down to three as the league announced finalists in each category.
The winners are set to be announced throughout the Audi 2023 MLS Cup Playoffs. Here are the three finalists from Atlanta United:
Atlanta United's striker has been named a finalist for the league's Newcomer of the Year Award, which is defined as a player who had previous professional experience and made his MLS debut in 2023. Giorgos Giakoumakis joined MLS back in February as a designated player signing for Atlanta United through the 2026 season. He arrived from Celtic FC in the Scottish Premiership where he was the top goal scorer during the 2021-22 season.
And the scoring prowess of Giakoumakis has transferred into MLS play. Giakoumakis made his MLS and club debut on March 11 at Charlotte FC and scored his first goal the next match on March 18 in Atlanta's 5-1 win over Portland Timbers. The Greek striker went on to finish the regular season with 17 goals, chasing the Golden Boot through the second half of the season. He'd end up tied for second-place in the Golden Boot standings, just three behind the leader, Dénis Bouanga of LAFC.
What's even more impressive about Giakoumakis is how little time he's needed to become an impact player. In June, the Greek international scored his 10th MLS goal of the season, making him the fastest player in Atlanta United's history to reach 10 goals. Giakoumakis ended up tied with Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati in the Golden Boot race but played significantly fewer minutes -- Giakoumakis logged 1791 minutes and Acosta played almost one thousand more with 2612 minutes.
"I’m proud that I reached the amount of goals I did," Giakoumakis said following his brace on Decision Day at FC Cincinnati. "Being that close, without even scoring one penalty, so at the end of the day I’m happy and proud. As I said a couple of days ago, I didn’t care about the Golden Boot anymore. The only thing I care about now is helping my team win."
Ever since his wicked free kick against Portland Timbers, a golazo that earned AT&T 5G Goal of the Matchday and the scorer MLS Player of the Matchday, Thiago Almada has been a human highlight reel, and his stellar play collectively throughout the season has made him a constant name talked about in the MVP conversation.
He's gone on to complete a 2023 regular season that included breaking the club's single-season assist record and scoring a league-leading six goals from beyond the 18-yard box. Almada also closed the regular season in first-place in MLS in assists (19) and successful dribbles (95) and second in MLS in goal contributions (30).
Almada is also a finalist for the Young Player of the Year award, which any “young player” in MLS who is age 22 or younger during the calendar year is eligible for. Almada has accomplished a lot for just being 22 years old. He's already won a World Cup with Argentina, becoming the first active MLS player to do so. And last year, he was named the 2022 MLS Newcomer of the Year and the No. 2 player on the list of 22 Under 22 presented by BODYARMOR.
"Thiago is a very high quality player, he's so good and it's very easy to play with him," teammate Saba Lobjanidze said after his club debut in the team's win over Nashville SC. "Even after training one time with him and playing only 20 minutes with him today, but I really enjoy playing with him. He's such a good player, and he has such a bright future, for sure."
What a joy to see Miles Robinson back on the year-end awards list. After suffering a devastating injury to his Achilles last season, Atlanta United's star center back missed most of the 2022 MLS season and the chance to make his World Cup debut in Qatar with the U.S. men's national team. For Robinson, it was a big disappointment and a period in his career he called a "low point" as he worked through the adversity.
But Robinson made a strong recovery just in time to return to the team by preseason -- and the veteran defender hasn't skipped a beat since. He's played in 27 matches for Atlanta United this season and ranked fourth on the team in minutes played. Additionally, Robinson has contributed on the attacking end, scoring two goals this season, a career high. He found his way back to the U.S. men's international team, where he's made 27 career caps. Robinson made the roster for the last several national team callups and helped the USMNT win the country's second straight Concacaf Nations League title in June.
"When we're doing good collectively, individuals shine and when you have that amount of talent that Miles has to cover the back, he shines even more," Atlanta United head coach Gonzalo Pineda said earlier this season. "It's always a collective effort, but very happy with his return to play as normal. Every weekend he's available, he's been at a very good level."
The full list of finalists can be found here.
Rooted In The Stripes
The third episode of our documentary that covers Atlanta United’s 2023 season airs NOW on YouTube.