2021 League Games: 15 games, 5 starts, 444 minutes played
2021 Postseason: 3 games, 0 starts, 62 minutes played
What went right in 2021:
Talles Magno joined New York City FC last May, becoming the club’s second-ever Young Designated Player. Joining in the middle of the MLS season meant that Talles Magno was going to have to get acclimated on the fly and find minutes to prove himself. While Talles Magno spent time on the pitch, it was often in a substitute role in 2021. The numbers don’t pop – two goals on nine attempts – but watching him play you knew the talent was evident. Talles Magno has a way of making the ball stick to his feet as if he had magnets in his boots, and he dazzled in his brief appearances with his dribbling and pace mostly as a wide player.
He appeared three times during the MLS Cup Playoffs as a sub, and even contributed a crucial game-winning goal versus Philadelphia United on the way to NYCFC securing their first-ever MLS Cup.
What to improve 2022:
With the departure of Jesus Medina to CSKA Moscow this winter, there is an opening in the Starting XI. Given the flashes he showed in 2021, not to mention the investment the club’s put into him making him a Young DP, it makes sense to assume the goal is for Talles Magno to take that wide attacking role that is now vacant. While Talles Magno’s ability on the ball and his athleticism seem to far exceed what Medina was capable of accomplishing, it’s not so black and white he will be an automatic upgrade on the wing.
For Talles to succeed this year, he’s going to have to develop his game more as a wide playmaker for the team. Say what you will about Medina, but he was crucial to the attack. His spacing, his combinations with Taty and Maxi Moralez, and his ability to keep the ball moving were all essential elements to what made the offense click. These are no doubt elements that Delia values as Medina remained a fixture in the Starting XI all season despite the wishes of many fans for Talles Magno or Thiago to replace him as the season progressed.
In the club’s CONCACAF Champions League match versus Santos, we got a first real look at how Talles Magno will fit into the Starting XI. And, as pointed out right here in Hudson River Blue, there is still work that needs to be done. Talles Magno will need to learn to support Taty Castellanos, not the other way around. It’ll be crucial to the attack for Talles Magno to understand how Taty likes to operate in the pitch, and to discover where he can find success in the spaces that Taty leaves available to him. This is something Santiago Rodríguez and Taty worked out to great success last year, and Santi deferred once again allowing Taty to operate more on the right due to Talles persistence on the left.
If I were part of the NYCFC staff, I’d give Talles Magno a lot of video on Jack Harrison’s time in NYCFC. Help find ways he can be successful as an aggressive attacking player that also strikes the right balance and doesn’t crowd or interfere with the established star’s (David Villa in Jack’s case) space to operate to their success. Talles Magno’s challenge this year will be finding a way to establish his own star while not inadvertently dimming the established star in Taty.
What to expect in 2022:
While tantalizing to watch, Talles Magno is still an unknown quantity for the most part. What we “should” expect is that he comes into the Starting XI, solidifies that left wing, and dazzles as one of the best young talents in MLS. But we also have to remember Talles Magno is still only 19, and development is unique to each player. It remains to be seen if he can already learn to master his tremendous talent within Ronny Delia’s system. If not, Deila will have other options at his disposal. It is even possible we see more of Thiago, Andres Jasson, or a two-striker system featuring Héber and Taty if Talles Magno can’t get in sync quickly. The club will need to properly balance Talles Magno’s development while defending their title in hopes of a repeat as MLS Cup winners.
That being said, there will be ample opportunities for Talles Magno to showcase he’s ready to shine between CONCACAF Champions League, MLS Regular Season, and U.S. Open Cup matches this season. And while it’s possible Talles Magno is still a year or two away from realizing his potential, I for one am expecting big things from him this season.
Don’t be surprised if we see Talles Magno as a finalist for MLS Young Player of the Year.