Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada named MLS Newcomer of the Year

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Showing creativity, durability, flair and good decision-making, Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada was voted the MLS Newcomer of the Year in results revealed by the league Tuesday.

Almada, with six goals and a team-high 12 assists, received more votes than finalists Juan “Cucho” Hernandez, a striker for Columbus, and Djordje Petrovic, a goalkeeper for New England. Almada secured 14.4% of the votes from among players, club executives and members of the media. Hernandez finished with an average percentage of 13.3, and Petrovic had 11.1.

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While Atlanta United didn’t qualify for the playoffs, Almada’s play was good enough to earn his first call-up to Argentina’s national team.

“It wasn’t the best year for us, as I’ve said before, so that doesn’t change,” Almada said in an exclusive interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “But on a personal level, I think I had a good year, and also, you know, with the Argentine call that I received, but of course, you know, what’s most important is the team as a group.”

Almada, 21, was purchased by Atlanta United from Velez Sarsfield in Argentina in February. He played for Argentina in a friendly in Miami last month. He’s also on the preliminary roster for its World Cup squad.

Almada said he was proud of the way he quickly adapted to Atlanta United, his teammates and manager Gonzalo Pineda. Almada made 29 appearances, including 25 starts. He created 73 scoring chances, sixth most in the league. His 2,373 minutes ranked second on the team. His assists tied for 12th most in the league.

After playing either as a winger or an attacking midfielder, Almada earned the central role and led Atlanta United’s offense, which was plagued by injuries and inconsistency but still finished first in the league in shots (540) and key passes (386).

Almada said he thinks his best moment was his first goal for the club, which came against Montreal. It was a right-footed shot from 20 yards that banged off the right post. It later was voted goal of the month in MLS. It was one of three goals that were voted MLS Goal of the Week.

“With that, I made a nice connection with the fan base,” he said.

Almada said he thinks he can improve his finishing and his defense. He finished with 11 tackles and put 24 of his 77 shots on goal.

As he did with one of his jerseys from his appearance with Argentina, Almada said he will give the award to his father.

Almada joins Miguel Almiron in 2017 as Atlanta United players to win Newcomer of the Year.

As for his future with the Five Stripes, Almada said he hasn’t spoken to his agent about any interest from clubs in Europe. Almada has said many times that his goal is to play for a club in Europe.

“I know (his agent) does his job really well,” he said. “But right now, I have my head focused on Atlanta.”

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