ATLANTA, GEORGIA—The Atlanta United FC is feeling good after scoring four second-half goals against Toronto FC on Saturday. The two goal scorers, Juanjo Purata and Thiago Almada, were both chosen to the Major League Soccer Team of the Week, the league said on Monday.
Purata set a new record with his second-half hat trick against Toronto FC. Purata now has six goals on the season, making him the highest-scoring defender in club history and the third-leading scorer for Atlanta United this season. He is the fourth player in club history to score a hat trick.
Even more remarkable, all six of Purata’s goals this season have come from headers. According to Opta, his feat on Saturday made him the only player since at least 2010 to score three headed goals in a single MLS encounter. Purata, 24, entered MLS from Tigres UANL, a club in Mexico where he spent his whole career before joining Atlanta United in June. Purata has rapidly established himself as an indispensable element of Atlanta United’s backline – especially after Saturday, a dangerous threat in Atlanta’s attack.
“I’m happy, I’m excited, most of all, I’m happy because the team won,” Purata said. “We’re able to get three points after suffering two losses away, so that’s what’s most important, that we’re still alive. We’re still fighting and trying to get the results,” Purata added.
Thiago Almada, Purata’s teammate, was also recognized by the league. In the 74th minute, Almada scored the game-winning and Atlanta United’s third goal. He took on the Toronto defense and found enough room for himself to hit a spectacular shot into the top right corner of the net.
Almada was chosen to the MLS Team of the Week for the third time this season. He last won it in back-to-back weeks in May.
Almada has established himself as one of Atlanta United’s and MLS’s bright young talents. His 11 assists this season are tied for seventh in the league. He also has one of the league’s top shot-creating actions, progressive passes, and progressive carries.
On the international scene, the 21-year-old also represents Atlanta United and MLS. Almada was included in the Argentina men’s national team’s preliminary roster on September 4. He’ll have the opportunity to play alongside Lionel Messi and some of Argentina’s greatest players later this month during the FIFA international window.