Giorgos Giakoumakis beats Lionel Messi to 2023 MLS Newcomer of the Year award

Giorgos Giakoumakis beats Lionel Messi to 2023 MLS Newcomer of the Year award

Atlanta United striker Giorgos Giakoumakis has been named the 2023 Major League Soccer Newcomer of the Year after his stellar first season in front of goal for the Five Stripes.

Giakoumakis beat out St Louis CITY’s Eduard Lowen and the eight-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi to capture the award given to the player with the best impact in his first season in MLS.

After bouncing around Europe playing for the likes of VVV-Venlo in the Eredivisie and Scottish Premier League giants Celtic, Giakoumakis opted to try his luck in MLS by joining Gonzalo Pineda’s side in February.

Atlanta brought in Giakoumakis to replace club legend Josef Martinez, who left Mercedes-Benz Stadium as the team’s all-time leading goal scorer with 110 goals to join Inter Miami. 

The 28-year-old’s first season in the league was nearly flawless with 17 goals in 27 appearances (21 starts) as a lingering hamstring injury here and there throughout the season prevented him from breaking the 20-goal threshold. 

Had he been healthy for a few more games, Giakouamkis might’ve snagged the top scorer award from LAFC’s Denis Bouanga (20 goals in 2,533 minutes played) due to his impressive tally in just 1,791 minutes played or 0.85 goals per 90 minutes played. 

Giakoumakis quickly struck up a brilliant partnership with star midfielder Thiago Almada, as the 2022 World Cup winner often found ‘The Tank’ on the end of his curling crosses to head home in the back of the net. 

In Atlanta’s 2-0 away triumph over Seattle Sounders in mid-August, Almada linked up with Giakoumakis twice – both were crosses that the former AEK Athens player latched on to via headed efforts. 

Giakoumakis’ ruthless finishing in front of goal is similar to Atlanta’s former number 7, but he’s also embraced the role of tracking back and doing the dirty work to help the Five Stripes’ defense that has struggled for most of the season. 

Giakoumakis and Atlanta, down 1-0 in their best-of-three series MLS Cup playoffs matchup with Columbus Crew, look to even the score up at home in game two on November 7 with Almada back in the side. 

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