Almada, the newly crowned Major League Soccer Young Player of the Year, chipped in an exquisite 88th-minute goal to put the seal on an emphatic win for Atlanta, setting up a winner-takes-all game three decider in Columbus on Sunday.
The 22-year-old South American midfielder’s goal capped a vibrant second half display from Atlanta, who had been well-beaten 2-0 in the opening game of the best-of-three series last week.
Greek international Giorgos Giakoumakis opened the scoring for Atlanta on 38 minutes, soaring high to power home a thumping downward header after a superbly flighted cross from the right flank by Brooks Lennon.
Columbus got back on level terms however in the 45th minute, with Cucho Hernandez rifling home an opportunistic low shot from eight yards after Atlanta gave the ball away in a dangerous position.
But Crew’s parity was short-lived, with Atlanta’s Portuguese winger Xande Silva scoring in first-half stoppage time to restore United’s lead.
Georgia international Saba Lobjanidze made a jinking run down the right and passed to Giakoumakis, who laid off into the path of Silva to lash home the finish.
Silva should have made it 3-1 on 61 minutes but somehow scooped his shot over an open goal from five yards out.
Atlanta’s greater attacking invention reaped its reward though on 83 minutes when substitute Edwin Mosquera swept a shot into the top corner after another flowing move.
Almada added a fourth on 88 minutes, deftly dinking over the advancing Columbus goalkeeper Patrick Schulte to make it 4-1 before Crew substitute Max Arfsten scored a late consolation goal deep into injury time.