Feats of Feet: Miguel Almirón thriving as Atlanta United playmaker
If there’s a segment about lizards on the National Geographic Channel, more particularly the Jesus Christ Lizard, look closely and make sure it’s not Miguel Almirón skating across water.
The Atlanta United attacking midfielder has recently been on a scoring rampage as he was named Major League Soccer Player of the Week in back-to-back weeks. Almirón has now collected five goals in just two games, marking the franchise’s second hat trick against the Houston Dynamo followed by a brace in the second New York City FC matchup.
It’s a feat that hasn’t been achieved since Sebastian Giovinco notched the respective accolade in 2015 with Toronto FC.
“We call him ‘the lizard man;’ he just flies,” left back Greg Garza said. “It’s crazy, I think he’s faster with the ball than he is without.”
Garza, who is currently on loan from Mexican football side Club Tijuana, added that Almirón has stepped out of his shell, especially the past two games. Moreover, he expressed his merriment because altogether Almirón’s productivity on the pitch coincides with the team’s capability to garner more points.
“Personally, I’m happy,” Almirón said. “But I’m happier for the team’s performances lately and the results we’ve been getting as a team.”
Almirón also thought his teammates were exaggerating a little bit with their claim that he is faster without the ball, however, midfielder Kevin Kratz suggested otherwise.
“It doesn’t look like it when you see him running against other players,” Kratz said. “You see that he’s fast, the style he’s running doesn’t look so fast, but he’s so fast with the ball as well.”
Four goals separate Atlanta United’s No. 10 playmaker from the leading goal scorer in the league, which is Nemanja Nikolic of Chicago Fire FC, who is on top with 11. Almirón’s seven goals do lead the team in scoring in addition to having four assists to show for on the side.
Following the victory over New York City FC in Week 13, Atlanta United is presently tied with Houston Dynamo for total goals scored in the MLS at 27.
With the team intensifying its overall efficiency on offense, Almirón has in turn increased his confidence in front of goal and composure on the ball since the 1-1 draw at Portland.
“We talked how we want him to shoot more and we want him to get into the area more,” head coach Gerardo “Tata” Martino said. “He’s a smart player and he’s been able to do that.”
The ability to blast screamers past goalkeepers lies within Almirón’s left foot and his yearning to high press within the 18-yard line. The Paraguayan said he attempts to model his tenacious feet to that of FC Barcelona forward Lionel Messi and Manchester City midfielder David Silva.
Even when defenders know players like Almirón, who are prone to use their left foot, dribble and score alike, the opposition still struggle to prevent an Almirón caliber competitor from extending the ball across the goal-line. And that’s what makes players like Almirón special and reveals their quality, according to Martino.
“It’s true he’s adding a new phase to his game, but it’s not anything new that I or the coaching staff weren’t aware of when we signed him from Argentina,” Martino said. “I think last season in that first division he was the best player in the league.”