Earlier today, Talles Magno made the New York City FC Starting XI in a league game for the first time since July 5. He didn’t look like somebody who hasn’t met the lofty expectations of a Designated Player, and who was banished to the bench and played a total of one minute over the course of three key games. He looked confident, and dangerous, and free.
More than that, he looked joyful. Here, at last, was the Talles Magno we were waiting to see, the forward who could connect elements of the attack through his dribbling and his intricate passing, the winger who can stretch the field of play out to the left flank, and who can create chaos in front of the goal.
Talles Magno scored the second goal in Wednesday’s win over Orlando City after coming on as a substitute for the injured Richy Ledezma. He didn’t find the back of the net on this soggy afternoon in Harrison, NJ, but his performance was easily his best of the season. He completed 47 of 54 passes (87%), took four shots, created three chances, and provided one assist. He also worked hard on the other side of the ball, winning four out of five tackles and making eight recoveries.
Attack, defense: Talles Magno was a complete player today. No wonder FotMob awarded him a score of 8.7, and named him Player of the Match.
This felt like the performance of a player hitting his stride, not one thrust into the Starting XI after injuries and suspensions helped thin out the squad. You could watch the chemistry develop between Talles Magno and Kevin O’Toole on the left. There were overlapping runs, clever lay-offs. You could watch the trust building. It was also reassuring to see the interplay between Talles Magno and Santiago Rodríguez, who looked like a proper No 10 this afternoon, and Andrés Perea, who feels like he’s been a part of this team since the start of a season, and not a mid-summer loanee whose contract still belongs to the Philadelphia Union.
But mostly, Talles Magno looked free.
He was freed of the burden of being the one who need to score. That’s the weight that Mounsef Bakrar now carries, and that Perea lifted earlier today when he found the back of the net not yet two minutes into the game. He was freed of playing in the center, where he never looked fully comfortable. Talles Magno looks his happiest when he receives the ball on the left and makes menacing incursions into the box.
Mostly, he was freed of being asked to carry the team. Rodríguez’s return to form, Perea’s quality, the rise of Andres Jasson, the defensive solidity of Thiago Martins and Birk Risa, the confident goalkeeping of Matt Freese, and the overall level of play took the spotlight off Talles Magno. One of the reasons why he looked so good today was because his teammates looked good, too.
It’s easy to forget that the imposing winger turned 21 in June — at the risk of sound like one of the olds, he’s just a kid.
Today he played like one in the best sense of the word. He made soccer look fun.