Atlanta United’s Thiago Almada showing his value

Atlanta United's Thiago Almada dribbles during the match against host Nashville on Saturday. Almada has scored three goals in his past three games across all competitions. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

Combined ShapeCaption
Atlanta United's Thiago Almada dribbles during the match against host Nashville on Saturday. Almada has scored three goals in his past three games across all competitions. (Photo by Dakota Williams/Atlanta United)

Credit: Dakota Williams/Atlanta United

NASHVILLE — Less than two weeks after Atlanta United was dumped from the U.S. Open Cup by a last-minute Nashville goal, the Five Stripes got a small measure of revenge by scoring their own late goal to salvage a 2-2 draw at GEODIS Park on Saturday.

Thiago Almada was a big reason why.

He scored the team’s first goal after being played in by Marcelino Moreno and earned an assist on Dom Dwyer’s goal in the 88th minute, or 260nd if you factor in the lightning delay of 2 hours, 52 minutes that interrupted the game in the 19th minute.

ExploreLate goal gives Atlanta United a draw with Nashville after long lightning delays

Almada has scored three goals in his past three games across all competitions.

“He’s being very good at connecting with his teammates,” manager Gonzalo Pineda said. “He’s willing to connect with his teammates and looking for connections around him. So I think it’s again credit to a great player. We have a fantastic player. And you can call me crazy, but I still expect even more from Thiago.”

Almada finished with two chances created and two shots, one on goal. His goal came when Ronaldo Cisneros forced goalkeeper Joe Willis to hurry a pass that Moreno intercepted near the top of the box. He patiently waited on teammates to arrive before he found Almada sprinting into the box to one-time a shot in the 26th minute. It was his third goal in an MLS game.

“I remember, at times, I was criticized by putting him just at the end of the games and not starting him right away. And I said at some point you will see that this will work."

- manager Gonzalo Pineda, on Thiago Almada

Almada’s assist, his third in a league game, came on a smartly hit chip to Brooks Lennon at the back post. Lennon played the ball across to Dwyer for his second goal and earned the team a valuable point on the road. It improved to 1-4-1 away from Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The team will host Columbus on May 28.

Pineda said Almada’s increased production is part of the plan put together when the team acquired him from Velez Sarsfield for a reported $16 million before the season.

Pineda chose to integrate Almada slowly into the starting 11. He didn’t start until the season’s fifth game at D.C. United. He has started the seven league games since. All of his goals and assists have come in the past five games.

“I would say that it took a little bit of a while to really express himself properly,” Pineda said. “I remember, at times, I was criticized by putting him just at the end of the games and not starting him right away. And I said at some point you will see that this will work.”

Another reason for Almada’s recent success is the result of familiarity with his teammates and Pineda’s decision to use him mostly as an attacking midfielder, instead of on the wing, which is where he played a lot earlier this season. Almada, Moreno, Luiz Araujo and Cisneros have started each of the past four games across all competitions. They have combined to score eight of the team’s past 10 goals.

In addition to Almada’s good work, Pineda complimented Moreno. He finished with a team-high five chances created and tied for second on completed passes in the final third (12), behind Almada (14).

Playing in the middle of the field, Almada is very good at finding spaces between the midfielders and centerbacks, which puts pressure on opponents. He’s quick enough to turn and escape if he needs. He also has the vision to bring defenders to him and then release the ball to an open teammate. And he’s a capable scorer. He finished with an expected-goals total of 0.41 against Nashville. It was the second highest on the team.

“There are not many number 10s (attacking midfielder) in the world,” Pineda said. “And we are happy having one of those few in our team.”

For more content about Atlanta United

Follow me on Twitter @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 - https://apple.co/3ISD6Ve

Spotify - https://spoti.fi/3L8TN0C

Google podcasts - https://bit.ly/32KlZW3

If you are listening to us for the first time, please follow us on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcast ... and if you like what you hear, please give us a good rating so we can grow the show.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has a special offer for Atlanta United supporters and listeners to this podcast. If you subscribe today, you will not only get unlimited digital access to the AJC and the Sunday paper for $2.30 a week but we are also throwing in a special limited-edition Atlanta United and Atlanta Journal-Constitution scarf. Sign up now at subscribe.ajc.com/utdscarf.

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 vs. Columbus Crew, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 19 vs. Miami, 3 p.m., ESPN2

June 25 at Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

June 30 at New York Red Bulls, 8 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 3 at NYCFC, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 9 vs. Austin, 7 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 13 vs. Real Salt Lake, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

July 17 vs. Orlando, 3 p.m., ABC

July 24 at L.A. Galaxy, 9:30 p.m., FS1

July 30 at Chicago, 5 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 6 vs. Seattle, 3 p.m., ABC

Aug. 13 at Cincinnati, 7:30 p.m. BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 17 vs. New York Red Bulls, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Aug. 21 at Columbus, 6 p.m., FS1

Aug. 28 vs. D.C. United, 4 p.m., UNIV

Aug. 31 at Philadelphia, 7 p.m., FS1

Sept. 4 at Portland, 5:30 p.m., FOX

Sept. 10 vs. Toronto, 7:30 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 14 at Orlando, 6 p.m., BSSO/BSSE

Sept. 17 vs. Philadelphia, 3:30 p.m., UniMas

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

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