Thiago Almada, Jamal Thiare score as Atlanta United defeats Toronto

Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada #10 celebrates after scoring a goal during the match against the Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday June 29, 2024. (Photo by Alex Sl

Credit: Alex Slitz

Credit: Alex Slitz

Atlanta United midfielder Thiago Almada #10 celebrates after scoring a goal during the match against the Toronto FC at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA on Saturday June 29, 2024. (Photo by Alex Sl

Playing possibly his last home match with Atlanta United, Thiago Almada scored and a bit of trickery by Jamal Thiare lifted the team to a 2-1 victory against Toronto on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Thiare scored the winning goal in the final seconds of the seventh minute of stoppage time when Toronto goalkeeper Luka Gavran, not seeing Thiare behind him, put the ball on the ground as he prepared to pass. Thiare sprinted around him, stole the ball, and scored the winning goal.

“I always try but it’s never worked liked that,” Thiare said. It was the third-latest game-winning goal in Atlanta United history, according to MLS.

Some Atlanta United players said they didn’t see Thiare sneaking up being Gavran. Others said they didn’t hear any Toronto players telling Gavran that Thiare was behind him.

“I would say I’m on the younger side of coaching and on the younger side of being in the game, but I’ve never seen anything like that,” Atlanta United interim manager Rob Valentino said.

It was a bizarre ending and celebratory way to possibly send out Almada. Atlanta United and Eagle Football, which owns clubs in Brazil, England and France, have been discussing a transfer of the playmaker for the past five days. That negotiation, combined with Atlanta United not playing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium again until it hosts NYCFC on July 17, may have resulted in Almada showing the announced attendance of 42,568 one last bit of magic before he is possibly sold for an expected fee that could be as high as an MLS-record $30 million.

While Almada’s team-leading sixth goal was a highlight, the win ended the team’s home winless streak at seven. Atlanta United (6-8-6) remains in the ninth and final playoff spot in the MLS Eastern Conference. It will play at New England on Wednesday and at Real Salt Lake on July 6.

“I believe you get out what you put in and I think we put in a lot of hard work tonight,” centerback Derrick Williams said. “And I think we deserved the three points.”

Almada wasn’t the only player who may have had his home finale. Fullback Caleb Wiley is also of interest to Premier League power Chelsea, who would purchase the player and loan him to Strasbourg in France. Those negotiations aren’t as developed as those involving Almada, who would reportedly go to Botafogo in Brazil and then to Lyon in France. Both players are expected to play for their countries in the Olympics. The transfer window in France opens on Monday.

Valentino’s starting 11 included Almada and Wiley, as well as striker Daniel Rios, midfielders Xande Silva, Tristan Muyumba and Jay Fortune, centerbacks Stian Gregersen, Williams and Noah Cobb, wingback Brooks Lennon and goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Atlanta United’s attack was almost non-existent through the beginning of the match. Its only shot taken was blocked.

The Five Stripes should have felt some urgency after Toronto had a goal in the 25th minute taken off because Lorenzo Insigne was judged after a review to be offside on his header from six yards out.

Atlanta United took a 1-0 lead on a goal by Almada in the second minute of added time in the first half. Almada played a give-and-go with Rios near the top of the 18-yard box and then slotted a right-footed shot into the near post. Rios earned his first assist.

The goal came on Atlanta United’s first bona fide attack. The team had two shots in the previous 46 minutes, neither on goal, and had created just two chances.

Atlanta United’s habit of giving up a goal after restarts continued as soon as the second half kicked off.

Federico Bernardeschi ran onto a long pass from Insigne, cut to his left inside Wiley and then put a left-footed shot through a crowd of Atlanta United players and into the lower left corner to tie the match at 1 in the 46th minute.

Bartosz Slisz, back from the Euros, and Jamal Thiare subbed on in the 58th minute for Fortune and Rios. Atlanta United began increasing its pressure. Silva and Thiare forced saves within two minutes. Ronald Hernandez came on for Gregersen in the 75th minute. Atlanta United continued to use three centerbacks.

Atlanta United continued to apply pressure getting the winner in the final minute of stoppage time.

“I really want them to enjoy it because it won’t probably happen again,” Valentino said of that type of goal. “And hopefully we can have a better understanding of where we’re at in the games. But I’m lost for words a little bit.”

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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 Atlanta United 1, St. Louis 1

June 29 Atlanta United 2, Toronto 1

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.