Thiago Almada was named the 2023 MLS Young Player of the Year, the league announced Monday, recognizing the midfielder's strong second year with Atlanta United. Almada, who joined the club in 2022 as a Designated Player signing, led Major League Soccer in assists (19) and goals outside the 18-yard box (six).
For this award, a “young player” in MLS who is age 22 or younger during the calendar year was eligible for consideration. Almada is 22 years old.
In 2023, Almada built off what was an impactful year for him in 2022 and took his play to the next level. This season, he made numerous statements with his play, including setting the club record for single-season assists, which he broke with five matches remaining in the regular season on September 16 against Inter Miami CF. Atlanta's "Starboy" finished the regular season with 19 assists, the most in MLS.
Almada also established himself as one of the best free kick takers in the league, proving to be lethal from any distance as he did with this incredible finish against Portland Timbers:
In addition to leading the league in assists and successful dribbles (95), Almada was also one of only a few players in MLS to tally double-digit goals and assists. The Argentine finished the regular season with 11 goals, second on the team behind only striker Giorgos Giakoumakis. At 21 years and 338 days old, Almada became the youngest player to earn MLS Player of the Month presented by CELSIUS® Essential Energy honors, for February and March, since Daryl Dike in 2020.
Almada's standout campaign comes on the heels of a memorable year in 2022 in which he was a late replacement to the FIFA World Cup roster for the Argentina men's national team. Argentina lifted the trophy in Qatar, winning the nation's third World Cup, making Almada the first active MLS player to ever win the FIFA World Cup. He joined a short yet impressive list of players to both win the World Cup and play in MLS.
As one of the most talented players in MLS, Almada is also excellent for Atlanta United off the pitch. For such a young and talented player with loads of potential, Almada is frequently praised by coaches and teammates for his humility. That was evident earlier this year when, for his goal celebration, Almada revealed underneath his kit a T-shirt with the words "Fuerte Apache," a tribute to his home neighborhood in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The 2023 recognition follows a brilliant introduction in his first professional season in MLS. Last season, Almada was named No. 2 on the 22 Under 22 List presented by BODYARMOR. Almada also made his senior international debut for Argentina on Sept. 23, 2022 in an international friendly against Honduras where he earned praise from world-class star, Argentina captain and now Inter Miami player Lionel Messi.
Monday's announcement marks Almada's first year-end award of the season and the second so far for Atlanta United. Last week, Giakoumakis was named the 2023 Newcomer of the Year, beating out Messi for the honor. Almada won the same award in 2022, giving Atlanta United the league's top newcomers in back-to-back years.
Almada, along with Giakoumakis, led this season's list of year-end awards for Atlanta United. Of the seven Atlanta United players nominated for awards, Almada and Giakoumakis received three nominations each, the most for the club. They were also two of three players, along with teammate Miles Robinson, to be announced finalists.
Almada is also a finalist for 2023 Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player and Robinson is a finalist for Comeback Player of the Year. Both winners will be announced at a later date. A full list of finalists can be found here.
The vote for Young Player of the Year was determined by a mix of current players, club technical staffs and media members.