Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada emerging as MVP candidate

Atlanta United's Thiago Almada (23) celebrates with teammate Andrew Gutman after Almada scored during the second half against Portland on Saturday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta United won 5-1. (Hyosub Shin /



Atlanta United's Thiago Almada (23) celebrates with teammate Andrew Gutman after Almada scored during the second half against Portland on Saturday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Atlanta United won 5-1. (Hyosub Shin /

Thiago Almada has scored four goals, three of them world-class, and has four assists through Atlanta United’s first four games.

Though at least one teammate is already using his social media platform to promote Almada as a potential MLS MVP, Almada said after Saturday’s 5-1 home victory over Portland in which he scored two more goals and added two assists that he’s focused only on the group.

Almada is the first player in MLS history to have at least four goals and four assists in his team’s first four matches.

“That’s what comes first and then later the MLS will decide,” he said.

Almada’s latest bit of magic was a 35-yard free kick that left everyone stunned.

The best photo may have been of Miles Robinson falling down on his knees after the kick glanced off the right upright and into the goal.

“I think everyone in the stadium had the same reaction, just wowed at the beauty of the free kick, and I am really happy for him,” teammate Brooks Lennon said.

Almada said he worked on taking longer free kicks Friday with teammate Clement Diop, so he felt confident standing over the dead ball.

After Almada hit it, manager Gonzalo Pineda said he thought Almada was attempting a cross. And then the ball went in, the third long goal Almada has scored this season. The first two were against San Jose in the opening game.

“No,” Almada said when asked if he’s ever hit a better one than he did against the Timbers.

After the game, Andrew Gutman tweeted that Almada is an MVP. In six previous seasons, Atlanta United has had one MVP winner, Josef Martinez in 2018.

Almada’s production is a product of his experiences with Argentina’s World Cup-winning squad in Qatar a few months ago and his daily habits.

Pineda said Almada is always on time and always stays late to make sure he is doing the things to take care of his body. After his goal, Almada ran to celebrate with his trainers who helped him with an ankle that has been bothering him.

“I can imagine at his age being champion of the world and being in the same locker room with the best player in the world,” Pineda said of Almada being on the same Argentina team as Lionel Messi. “It helps in your development, for sure, but it can also be a distraction at his age if he’s not mature enough. It can be, ‘I’m done. I can retire now, and I did everything in my career.’ That’s not the reaction I saw from Thiago since the first day back. He was not taking liberties at all.”

Though Almada had just a short appearance in the World Cup, he did well enough, and has done well enough, that he earned another call-up that will result in him missing Atlanta United’s next game at Columbus.

It will give him a chance to learn more that he may bring back to Atlanta United.

“Well, I tried to absorb everything that I could, to learn, watch the older players,” Almada said. “Then, try to show it on the field. The World Cup also gave me a lot of confidence, and I think I’m in a good moment, and I hope to continue like that.”

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Atlanta United’s 2023 MLS schedule

Feb. 25 Atlanta United 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

March 4 Atlanta United 1, Toronto FC 1

March 11 Atlanta United 3, Charlotte FC 0

March 18 Atlanta United 5, Portland 1

March 25 at Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

April 1 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

April 8 at New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.

April 15 at Toronto FC, 7:30 p.m.

April 23 vs. Chicago Fire FC, 4:30 p.m., FS1

April 29 at Nashville SC, 1:30 p.m., Fox

May 6 at Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.

May 13 vs. Charlotte FC, 7:30 p.m.

May 17 vs. Colorado Rapids, 7:30 p.m.

May 20 at Chicago Fire FC, 8:30 p.m.

May 27 at Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m.

May 31 vs. New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m., FS1

June 3 at Los Angeles FC, 10:30 p.m.

June 10 vs. D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

June 21 vs. New York City FC, 7:30 p.m.

June 24 at New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m.

July 2 vs. Philadelphia Union, 4 p.m., Fox

July 8 at CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

July 12 at New England Revolution, 7:30 p.m.

July 15 vs. Orlando City SC, 7:30 p.m., FS1

Aug. 20 at Seattle Sounders, 10:30 p.m.

Aug. 26 vs. Nashville SC, 7:30 p.m.

Aug. 30 vs. FC Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 2 at FC Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

Sept. 16 vs. Inter Miami CF, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 20 at D.C. United, 7:30 p.m.

Sept. 23 vs. CF Montreal, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 4 at Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 7 vs. Columbus Crew, 7:30 p.m.

Oct. 21 at FC Cincinnati, TBA