Thiago Almada's stunning late goals lift Atlanta United over Earthquakes

World Cup winner Thiago Almada made a stunning start to the 2023 MLS season.
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Thiago Almada scored twice in second-half stoppage time to rally host Atlanta United to a 2-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes Saturday in the Major League Soccer season opener for both teams.

The 5-foot-7 winger from Argentina, who won the FIFA World Cup with his national team two months ago -- becoming the first active MLS player to do so -- fired from distance and struck the underside of the crossbar, getting enough of a deflection off the ironwork to allow the ball to bounce across the goal line in the third minute of extra time.

That tied the match at 1.

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But Atlanta wasn't finished. It pressed for the three points and moments before the final whistle, earned a free kick from outside of the box. Almada stepped up to take it, and his strike found a corner of the net off the fingers of San Jose goalkeeper Daniel.

That was essentially the final play of the match.

Almada's heroics spoiled the debut of Luchi Gonzalez as head coach of the Earthquakes. San Jose, which finished last in the Western Conference last season, has now gone 20 calendar years since winning a season-opening game on the road.

Jeremy Ebobisse, last year's goals leader for the Earthquakes, scored in the 12th minute, redirecting a cross from teammate Cristian Espinoza to give San Jose the lead. They held it until stoppage time in the second half.

Atlanta's Brooks Lennon had his team's best scoring chance of the night in the first 90 minutes. He created some space with the ball in front of the goal and got off a shot in the 87th minute that zipped just wide of the net.

Things looked bleak for the home side but Atlanta kept pushing for an equalizer and was rewarded for maintaining possession of the ball.