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It makes me want to dribble dribble

Talles Magno is one of the most elite dribblers in MLS: Will his finishing and passing also reach that level?

My money don't jiggle jiggle, it folds.
Photograph by Katie Cahalin, courtesy NYCFC.com

Talles Magno’s increased role has spearheaded New York City FC’s success this season, as his introduction into the starting lineup has added another dimension to an already elite attack. MLS has seen an injection of young South American talent as teams look to develop youthful players and make a profit. Many of these haven’t nearly lived up to their hype, however, Magno has seemingly exceeded expectations in just over a year since he debuted late last May.

Magno didn’t shine from day one. It actually took 12 appearances for him to score a well-taken volley in a 3-3 draw against FC Dallas. He displayed glimpses of talent last year, however, he never fully broke into the squad and was resigned to a bench spot for the most part. That being said, he still scored one of the most important goals in NYCFC history — he knocked in the winner in the Eastern Conference finals, off the bench, to send the Pigeons to the MLS Cup.

Following the departure of Jesús Medina, a starting wing position was up for grabs. Magno slotted in on the left side and hit the ground running in 2022, scoring three goals in the club’s semi-final run in the CONCACAF Champions League on his way to being awarded young player of the tournament and being placed on the tournament’s Best XI.

Magno has quickly become a key player in the squad, starting 14 out of the 15 MLS games this season. He scored three goals, assisted another five, and is one of – if not the – best young talents in MLS. What makes him so good and where is the room for improvement? Let’s unpack.

It makes me want to dribble dribble, you know

Magno is a dribble-first player, and for good reason. He ranks in the 88th percentile of attacking midfielders and wingers in both dribbles completed (2.38 per 90) and dribbles attempted (4.45 per 90), according to Fb ref. He averages 8.48 progressive carries with a total distance of 162.13 yards carried per 90 minutes, which places him in the 93rd percentile.

His ability to get out of tight spaces and create moves out of seemingly impossible situations is incredible for the team and fans, and a nightmare for defenders. Teams have resorted to throwing double- and triple-teams at Talles Magno. This extra attention often leads to fouls — on average, Tales Magno suffers 3.11 fouls per 90, which places him in the 96th percentile in MLS.

Talles Magno Dribbling

Dribbles Per 90 Minutes Percentile
Dribbles Per 90 Minutes Percentile
Dribbles attempted 4.45 88%
Dribbles completed 2.38 88%
Carries into penalty box 1.89 98%
Touches inside penalty box 7.44 99%

For all of Talles Magno’s skill, he’s not immune to the bad touch, especially as teams have started to throw multiple defenders his way. He averages 2.68 mis-controls and 3.23 dispossessions per 90, which rank him in the bottom 21st percentile and eighth percentile respectively. Considering the number of dribbles he attempts, the high turnover rate isn’t surprising or concerning.

Magno’s talent as a dribbler is revealed by how good he is inside the box. He’s in the 98th percentile for carries into the penalty area with 1.89 per 90, and he’s in the 99th percentile for touches inside the penalty box with 7.44 per 90 minutes. Magno’s goals added, which measures a player’s contributions on both sides of the ball, is 1.82 according to American Soccer Analysis. That places him sixth in all of MLS, and fourth out of all attackers. Magno is already a top attack in the league as the stats show.

Finishing, passing: Works-in-progress

Magno has scored three times in MLS play this season so far: a header against CF Montréal, a left-foot finish against Columbus Crew, and, his most impressive goal yet, a right-footed volley against Colorado Rapids. He’s an inconsistent finisher and has missed his fair share of quality chances too — the point-blank shot that was saved in the CCL Semi-finals second leg is the most notable. He is also capable of the quality strike, as his long-range effort that struck the woodwork against Minnesota United and his most recent volley against Colorado displayed.

Statistically, he is not a strong finisher with 41.5% of his shots hitting the target. His expected goals per 90 is .32 which means he just slightly underperforms in front of goal as he averages .30 goals per 90 minutes.

Talles Magno Passing

Passes Per 90 Minutes Percentile
Passes Per 90 Minutes Percentile
Passes attempted 37.62 82%
Passes completed 30.30 82%
Passes into penalty box 1.46 68%
Key passes 1.77 68%

Similar to his shot, Magno’s passing is slightly inconsistent. He often puts too little weight on the ball, giving defenders the chance to pounce on his passes. Statistically, Talles Magno is an average to slightly above-average passer, completing 30.30 passes out of his 37.62 average per 90, giving him an 80.6% completion rate and landing him in the 82nd percentile. He averages 1.46 passes into the penalty area and 1.77 key passes, both ranking him in the 68th percentile in MLS play.

Magno is already one of the best dribblers in the league at only 20 years of age. His rapid growth in a year has made the reported $8 million fee the club paid for him money well spent. With the departure of Taty Castellanos from the club appearing to be just a matter of time, Magno is poised to take the leading role in NYCFC’s attack. Given Magno’s growth it would not be surprising to see him follow the path laid down by Castellanos, and depart for eight figures after making his name at NYCFC.