Atlanta United’s Jamal Thiare: “I just had a feeling...”

Atlanta United forward Jamal Thiaré #29 and Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada #10 celebrate a goal during the match against the Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday June 29, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Credit: Mitch Martin/Atlanta United

Atlanta United forward Jamal Thiaré #29 and Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada #10 celebrate a goal during the match against the Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday June 29, 2024. (Photo by Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

Jamal Thiare had tried sneaking up from behind goalkeepers many, many times.

It had never worked.

And then it did on Saturday in the final seconds of Atlanta United’s match against Toronto at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Tied at 1 in the final seconds of the 97th minute, Toronto goalkeeper Luka Gavran had the ball. The other 20 players were far down the pitch waiting on him to boot it down the field.

The 22nd player, Thiare, was a few yards behind, stalking Gavran. As soon as Gavran dropped the ball, Thiare sprinted around him and stole it. Gavran unsuccessfully tried to tackle Thiare, who took a touch and then hit a right-footed shot into the goal to become the third-latest game-winner in franchise history, according to MLS.

“I wasn’t surprised, because I just had a feeling that the goalkeeper was going to put the ball down on the turf, and then I focused on making sure to do my job,” Thiare said.

Several Atlanta United players were asked if they could hear any Toronto players or coaches trying to yell or signal to Gavran that Thiare was behind him. In a video replay, one Toronto player is seen pointing toward Thiare.

“I saw Jamal and I saw the keeper, and I said, ‘I don’t think he sees him,’ but part of me was thinking this won’t work because it never does, but Jamal stayed persistent, stayed in the moment, and he ended up getting a reward,” Atlanta United interim manager Rob Valentino said.

Like Valentino, fullback Caleb Wiley said he saw Thiare at the last second.

“We were talking about how I’ve never seen something like that happen in a game before,” he said. “But I’m super proud of the guy. He deserves that. It’s an awesome way to get points…I didn’t hear anything. I think the fans maybe saw Jamal and they started screaming and so the stadium got pretty loud, but I didn’t hear anything.”

The sneaky move has been tried by players around the world. It has worked a few times, but those instances are so rare that a few Atlanta United players said they have seen it but had trouble remembering the details. Centerback Derrick Williams came closest saying he remembered Robbie Keane using it for Tottenham Hotspur, but he couldn’t remember when or the opponent. Centerback Stian Gregersen said he had seen it before in Norway.

“I mean it’s going to happen once in a goalkeeper’s lifetime,” Toronto manager John Herdman said. “Probably going to happen once in my lifetime as well.”

While it was a unique way to score, it may be a bit of karmic swing for Atlanta United, which has allowed a few weird goals of its own this season.

The victory snapped Atlanta United’s seven-match home winless streak and kept it above the playoff line in ninth place in the East.

“I think it’s massive,” Williams said. “Just like you said, we haven’t won in a few games, so I think this is a massive confidence boost. So now, hopefully we can turn this place back into a fortress.”

For more content about Atlanta United

Follow me on Twitter/X @DougRobersonAJC

On Facebook at Atlanta United News Now

On Instagram at DouglasDavidRoberson

Atlanta United coverage on The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Southern Fried Soccer podcast can be found

Apple -

Spotify -

Google podcasts -

If you are going to listen to the podcast for the first time, please follow it on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts ... and if you like what you hear, please give us a good rating so we can grow the show. If you have questions about the MLS team, you can email Doug Roberson at, DM him on Twitter @dougrobersonajc or call 404-526-2527.

Stay up to date every day on breaking news, in-depth investigations, politics, sports, entertainment, food and dining and so much more by becoming a subscriber to the AJC. Go to for a very special offer and unlock hundreds of original articles published daily on the refreshed and the new AJC mobile app. Plus, access to our news alerts, subscriber-only events, AJC original shows, films and videos, newsletters, and so much more.

Atlanta United’s 2024 schedule

Feb. 24 Columbus 1, Atlanta United 0

March 9 Atlanta United 4, New England 1

March 17 Atlanta United 2, Orlando 0

March 23 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 0

March 31 Atlanta United 3, Chicago 0

April 6 Atlanta United 1, NYCFC 1

April 14 Atlanta United 2, Philadelphia 2

April 20 Cincinnati 2, Atlanta United 1

April 27 Atlanta United 1, Chicago 1

May 4 Minnesota 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte Independence 0 in U.S. Open Cup

May 11 D.C. United 3, Atlanta United 2

May 15 Cincinnati 1, Atlanta United 0

May 18 Atlanta United 1, Nashville 1

May 21 Atlanta United 0 (5), Charleston 0 (4) in U.S. Open Cup

May 25 LAFC 1, Atlanta United 0

May 29 Atlanta United 3, Miami 1

June 2 Charlotte 3, Atlanta United 2

June 15 Atlanta United 2, Houston 2

June 19 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

June 22 Atlanta United 1, St. Louis 1

June 29 Atlanta United 2, Toronto 1

July 3 at New England, 7:30 p.m.

July 6 at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 p.m.

July 9 vs. Indy Eleven in U.S. Open Cup

July 13 at Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 17 vs. NYCFC, 7:30 p.m.

July 20 vs. Columbus, 7:30 p.m.

July 26 vs. D.C. United in Leagues Cup, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 4 vs. Santos Laguna in Leagues Cup, 4 p.m.

Aug. 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 31 at Charlotte, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 14 vs. Nashville, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 18 vs. Miami, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 21 at Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 28 at Philadelphia, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 2 vs. Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 5 vs. Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 19 at Orlando, 6 p.m.