Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada: ‘I’m happy here’

Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada  dribbles during the first half of the match against the Charlotte FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday June 2, 2024. (Photo by  Madelaina Polk/Atlanta United)

Credit: Madelaina Polk/Atlanta United

Credit: Madelaina Polk/Atlanta United

Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada dribbles during the first half of the match against the Charlotte FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Sunday June 2, 2024. (Photo by Madelaina Polk/Atlanta United)

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Thiago Almada said he’s happy at Atlanta United. As if to prove it, unprompted, he ended remarks after Wednesday’s 1-0 victory against D.C. United, secured because of his goal, by complimenting the team’s coaching staff, led by interim Rob Valentino.

“I want to highlight the work of the coaching staff in a situation like this,” he said after everyone thought he was done with interviews. “You can see that they really love the club and so the fans are aware that it’s not only us who play but that they also contribute their part every day.”

Almada was referring to the promotion of Valentino following the firing of Gonzalo Pineda.

Almada helped by hammering a 25-yard strike that lifted Atlanta United past D.C. United and to its second win in 13 MLS matches. It also moved the club into ninth and above the playoff line in the East.

The wondrous strike came two days after Almada, in an interview with TyC Sports in Argentina, mentioned that he had spoken with Argentinian legend Juan Roman Riquelme at Boca Juniors, one of the biggest clubs in the country. That comment created a storm of speculation that Almada would be willing to return to Argentina to continue his career.

Almada, who has said numerous times that his dream is to one day play for a club in Europe, put that speculation to rest on Wednesday.

“As I said in the interview, there’s nothing formal,” he said. “I’m very happy here, trying to give my best for Atlanta, to try to change the situation. I have my head here, on my teammates, the coaching staff and on the club.”

Almada was signed by Atlanta United from Velez Sarsfield in Jan. 2022. He finished among the finalists for MLS MVP in 2003 with 11 goals and 19 assists. He has five goals, he’s now the team leader, and three assists this season.

He said he doesn’t feel any added pressure to try to carry the team following the sale of striker Giorgos Giakoumakis to Cruz Azul on Sunday.

“We’re not here to think about who’s going or coming,” Almada said. “We know the job we have to do and the situation we’re in, and the only thing that helps is that who’s here want to win and are pulling in the same direction, that’s most important.”

Valentino praised Almada after Wednesday’s victory, describing his goal and fantastic and his commitment as quality.

“I think that’s what he brings and he works hard to try to do it whether he’s got pressure on him or not, that would be on him and how he handles it,” Valentino said. “We, as a staff, try to take the pressure off all the guys so they can go play their game and enjoy the moment. I hope that he feels that the group will take the pressure off him and we can’t just rely on one person.”

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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 at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.

June 29 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m.

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.