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Giorgos Giakoumakis reflects on 2023, renewed confidence gained in 1st season with Atlanta United

Atlanta’s No. 7 spoke at MLS Media Day on Thursday.

2024 MLS Media Day Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images

Giorgos Giakoumakis barely feels the pressure placed on him by Atlanta United fans and the rest of MLS, considering the immense expectations he faced with his previous club, Celtic, in its annual battle with Rangers at the top of the Scottish Premiership table.

That doesn’t mean he’s lacking in ambition, though.

“Just to play for Atlanta, you have to aim to win some titles,” Atlanta’s No. 7 said during an appearance at MLS Media Day in Miami on Thursday. “Even if the team is giving you the pressure or the fans, you have to put this pressure on [yourself] before the season even starts.”

Giakoumakis burst onto the scene in a big way in 2023, winning Newcomer of the Year after scoring 17 goals in 27 MLS matches (19 across 30 appearances in all competitions). He’d have more if not for a nagging injury that held him out for various spells of the season.

However, the 17-goal output still tied him for 2nd in the league with MLS MVP Lucho Acosta, with both players finishing 3 behind eventual Golden Boot winner Denis Bouanga.

“It’s something that I was really close to achieving in 2023, but at the end of the day I didn’t win it, so it’s something that I’m really aiming [to win in 2024],” Giakoumakis said.

There’s a bigger aim for Giakoumakis in 2024, though: leading his country to the European Championship. Greece won the tournament in 2004 and failed to get out of the group stage 4 years later before falling in the knockout round in 2012, to date its last appearance.

That could change this spring, though, as Greece faces Kazhakhstan in a Euro 2024 qualifying play-off match on March 21 in Athens. The winner of that one faces either Georgia (and Giakoumakis’s fellow Atlanta attacker, Saba Lobjanidze) or Luxembourg on March 26 for a spot in this summer’s tournament in Germany.

Giakoumakis noted a newfound confidence in Atlanta that he didn’t have at Celtic, along with as a renewed level of fitness gained from more playing time, as tools that will prove vital in March.

“They are the most important games I’ve ever played as a national team player. I’ve never been to a big tournament with the national team, and this is probably the biggest dream I have right now,” he said.

That’s not to mention his relationship with Gonzalo Pineda, which he called “amazing” while possibly alluding to less-than-fond memories of previous Bhoys boss Ange Postecoglou, now at Tottenham Hotspur.

“He’s a very nice guy, and this is really important for me. And he’s also a good manager,” Giakoumakis said of Pineda. “For me, if you’re a good manager and not a good guy, you cannot inspire me, because I’ve had managers like that in the past.

“For me, he has the whole package, and we have a great relationship.”