Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada said playing for Argentina was a dream

Thiago Almada said it was a dream come true to play for Argentina and alongside Lionel Messi in last week’s 3-0 win against Honduras in Miami.

Almada, a midfielder in his first season with Atlanta United, played 36 minutes. He said he got to speak to Messi, considered one of the best players in soccer history, about normal things on the field.

“He likes to be treated just like everybody else, so that that makes us calm,” Almada said.

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After the game, Messi complimented Almada, describing how he’s tricky in one-on-one situations.

“It’s a huge joy for the best player in the world to be speaking about me,” Almada said. “But I know that I have to keep working, and I can’t be satisfied.”

Playing for Argentina’s national team is a huge compliment for Almada, considering his age (21) and the fact that most of his teammates are standouts for some of the biggest clubs in the world.

Almada said it was an important step in his dream of one day playing for a club in Europe. He said his agent hasn’t shared with him if he’s been contacted by any of those clubs.

Right now, Almada stressed his focus is on helping Atlanta United make the MLS playoffs. The team is in ninth place in the East, with 40 points. It trails seventh-place Miami for the seventh and final playoff spot by two points, but Miami has played one less game. Atlanta United will play at New England on Saturday and will host NYCFC on Decision Day on Oct. 9.

He wants to apply lessons he learned in Miami.

“I think I learned to always want to continue to get better, to give your best every day in training, because Messi and other guys on the national team, they’re always working, and they’re never satisfied,” Almada said.

Manager Gonzalo Pineda said he thinks Almada will be even more motivated after getting a taste of playing for the national team. Almada, who has six goals and leads the Five Stripes with 11 assists, agreed.

“Every day that I wake up with motivation for my family, for the club, for all my teammates,” he said. “So I just have to continue working with humility and sacrifice.”

Regarding his family, Almada said the only souvenir he brought back from his experience with the national team was his jersey, which he gave to his father, Diego.

In addition to playing for the national team, Almada was honored by being included on the list for several MLS end-of-season awards Thursday, including MVP.

Almada credited Pineda and his teammates for his nomination. He’s also on the list for Newcomer of the Year and Young Player of the Year.

“I think it’s a credit to the sacrifice and all the work that I put in and now just continuing here to get better,” he said. “Right now we’re focused on these two games trying to get into the playoffs and if not this year, then to continue working and to do it next year.”

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Atlanta United’s 2022 MLS schedule

Feb. 27 Atlanta United 3, Sporting KC 1

March 5 Colorado 3, Atlanta United 0

March 13 Atlanta United 2, Charlotte 1

March 19 Atlanta United 3, Montreal 3

April 2 Atlanta United 1, D.C. United 0

April 10 Charlotte 1, Atlanta United 0

April 16 Atlanta United 0, Cincinnati 0

April 24 Miami 2, Atlanta United 1

April 30 Montreal 2, Atlanta United 1

May 7 Atlanta United 4, Chicago 1

May 15 Atlanta United 2, New England 2

May 21 Atlanta United 2, Nashville 2

May 28 Columbus 2, Atlanta United 1

June 19 Atlanta United 2, Miami 0

June 25 Toronto 2, Atlanta United 1

June 30 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

July 3 Atlanta United 2, NYCFC 2

July 9 Austin 3, Atlanta United 0

July 13 Atlanta United 2, Real Salt Lake 1

July 17 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 1

July 24 L.A. Galaxy 2, Atlanta United 0

July 30 Atlanta United 0, Chicago 0

August 6 Atlanta United 2, Seattle 1

August 13 Atlanta United 2, Cincinnati 2

August 17 New York Red Bulls 2, Atlanta United 1

August 21 Atlanta United 2, Columbus 2

August 28 Atlanta United 3, D.C. United 2

August 31 Philadelphia 4, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 4 Portland 2, Atlanta United 1

Sept. 10 Atlanta United 4, Toronto 2

Sept. 14 Atlanta United 1, Orlando 0

Sept 17 Atlanta United 0 Philadelphia 0

Oct. 1 at New England, 1:30 p.m., UniMas

Oct. 9 vs. NYCFC, TBD, BSSO/BSSE