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Does Gabriel Segal's rise spell good things for Talles Magno?

The New York City attack finally found some of the energy that's been missing in recent games.

Ahead of Wednesday night’s away matchup against Orlando City, forward Talles Magno was dropped from the starting lineup for the second time this season. Poor performances and rumored tension in the locker room seemed to be behind benching him in favor of winger Matías Pelligrini. 

His stint on the sidelines would only last nine minutes. An injured Pellegrini limped off the field, a confident Talles Magno trotted on, and the 20-year-old Brazilian gave the traveling fans glimpses of the show they longed for all season, capped off by his 89th-minute assist to Gabriel Segal for the equalizer. Wednesday night’s display from Talles Magno was a prime example of the talent he has to offer. 

That is, when Talles Magno is utilized correctly. 

He’s no No 9

For the first five games of the 2023 MLS campaign, head coach Nick Cushing started Talles Magno as NYCFC’s No 9. The natural winger simply couldn’t adapt, managing just one goal and recording zero assists in that run of games. This output from the Brazilian was looked upon with dismay by many of the NYCFC faithful, especially when considering the young winger’s $1.2 million salary makes him the third-highest-paid active player in the squad.

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The 20-year-old possesses a physically imposing stature that could translate to the No 9 position, but his overall game is much more suited to the wing. He likes to use his agility and technical skill to move through the opposition, not dominate them with his size. Talles Magno never looked comfortable as a No 9, and when the ball advanced into the attacking third he didn’t function like a target man, or make the runs that could open up space for others.

Things are different when Talles Magno is allowed to roam along the left wing. Since NYCFC’s away loss to the Houston Dynamo on March 25, Talles Magno has been deployed on the wing for eight straight games. In that span, he contributed two goals and one assist, placing him second in the squad for overall goal contributions.

Young American

The rise of Segal could help boost Talles Magno’s performance these next several weeks. Segal is just a rookie, and as young and unproven as you’ll find in MLS, but he has the tools to become a partner with which the Brazilian can both work off of and feed. 

Following the departure of former Golden Boot-winner Taty Castellanos last year, NYCFC tried to fill the No 9 position with unimpressive results. At least five different players have been deployed as a striker by Cushing, and two of those, Héber and Thiago, are no longer with the team. Midfielders such as Richy Ledezma and Santiago Rodríguez have plied their trade up top in recent games, neither of them are natural forwards. Segal’s rise in the pecking order is a sign that Cushing and his staff are beginning to believe that the American could fill the void left by the departure of Castellanos. 

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As Segal opened his MLS account for NYCFC vs Orlando, courtesy of a Talles Magno low-driven cross, fans should feel a sense of optimism going forward. Given the success that was put on display when Castellanos and Talles Magno linked up in attack, a partnership between the Brazilian and the young American could be the answer to New York City’s attacking woes.

It’s too early to tell, but maybe that last-minute goal didn’t just steal a point in Orlando. It might be the play that restores some attacking flair to this sputtering NYCFC squad.