Almiron's Atlanta legacy is secure even if MLS Cup was his final match
Posted On March 22, 2019
The Premier League target may be on his way out in the coming weeks, but he gave the club everything it could have asked for and more
If this was Miguel Almiron’s final act in Atlanta, and it very well may be, what an act it was.
Widely linked with a move to Europe ahead of Saturday’s MLS Cup, Almiron closed the season, and perhaps his MLS career, with yet another star performance. The Premier League may come calling in the coming weeks and, if Saturday was any indication, he’s more than ready.
Everything Almiron brings to the table was on full display. There were sequences where he embarrassed those in front of him using his unique combination of skill and pace to help lead the Atlanta United attack. His direct free kick into the box led to Atlanta’s second goal and, ultimately, an MLS Cup.
That’s what the night was about for Almiron: the MLS Cup. The rumors? Those are for another day. His future? That can wait. For Almiron, Saturday was about Atlanta and a two-year journey that saw him grow from potential star to actual star.
“I’m coming back in the preseason,” Almiron said after the match as he repeatedly played coy about his future.
“When I got to Atlanta I didn’t think we would enjoy all this,” he added. “It’s beautiful what I’ve lived here, and what I am living here. More for the people, you feel the love. I want to thank them for that.”
The people of Atlanta can thank Almiron who, along with Josef Martinez, became the city’s first breakout stars.
From the day he signed with the club, there was pressure on the Paraguayan midfielder as he signed for a transfer fee of around $8 million (£6m) from Lanus. There were expectations.
He exceeded them at every turn.
It didn’t matter that he wasn’t locally-cultivated. It didn’t matter that he was entering a club without any real soccer history. What mattered was talent, and Almiron’s has frequently been display throughout his two-year stay.
In year one, it was a nine-goal and 14 assist campaign that fell short in the postseason. Year two? That was a different animal as the Paraguayan star fired 12 goals and 14 more assists and Atlanta smashed records.
Martinez, too, was a record-breaker, having shattered the MLS single-season goalscoring mark, and the bond between the two was vital to Atlanta’s success.
“Before the game, I had a moment with Miguel,” Martinez said, “and I just thanked him for all the help that he’s given me over the last two seasons.
“I told him, ‘Please make me a champion today because I’ve never been a champion before’. I want to thank him for that.”
Low and behold, it was the connection between Almiron and Martinez that led to the second and final goal. Almiron played in the cross, Martinez flicked it on, and Franco Escobar provided the finish.
In some ways, it was a fitting moment. Almiron and Martinez did the heavy lifting with the teammate providing the rest. It wasn’t just Almiron and Martinez that carried Atlanta, but they were the ones that did the heavy lifting.
Almiron may very well be headed off, but his impact in Atlanta will remain, even if it was forged in just two seasons.
“His legacy, his impact on the game, on the team, on the city, it’s huge,” said goalkeeper Brad Guzan. “Whatever happens with Miguel, we wish him all the best.
“He has been a fantastic servant of this club, of this city. He deserves everything that he’s going to get going forward in his career on an individual basis.
“So, couldn’t be happier for him – if this is the end for him – to be able to send him off as a champion.”
Guzan knows a thing or two about playing abroad, having featured for years with Aston Villa in the Premier League. He knows it takes something special to play at that level.
In his eyes, Almiron has it.
“I think he’ll do fantastic in England,” he said with a smile, giving a stamp of approval to a player that gave Atlanta everything it could have asked for.