Spurned by his boyhood club, Derby County Football Club in England, Loyola men’s soccer midfielder Giann Magno was left to wonder whether and where he’d play soccer again — until Loyola and head coach Neil Jones came calling.
Now, he’s transitioning into a leadership role for his junior season.
Sponsored by Vertex soccer — a third-party company specializing in helping English players play in the U.S. — Magno began to catch the eyes of dozens of U.S. coaches, including Jones. Scouting him in a showcase game for English players attempting to play in the U.S., Jones moved quickly to get in the mix of coaches vying for Magno.
“We did a lot of research into him and we knew from the first time we watched his film we were interested,” Jones said. “The biggest thing with [international players] is the mystery behind them. In the U.S, you can go and watch and see them train and have them sit down with you, but that’s why we’re very meticulous and diligent in the research we do on the players we target.”
After playing in several showcase games, Magno, now a junior journalism major at Loyola, received a series of offers from schools including the Ramblers, Stetson University, Oregon State University, Fordham University and the University of Indiana.
Through this recruiting process, he had numerous phone conversations with coaches and meetings to consider where he’d play in the States — none of which stuck out more than Jones and the Ramblers, according to Magno.
“I had quite a few schools reaching out to me and talking to me over the phone about joining them,” Magno said. “With [Jones], it was just different. I had a few great conversations with him and Loyola’s high ranking at the time, for me, just kind of sealed it and helped me make my decision.”
Although recruits usually sign in May, Magno signed with the Ramblers in July 2017 and arrived in Rogers Park in August 2017 to the crunch of being many months behind schedule. Jones said this delay was noticeable and hurt Magno as he faced the challenge of adapting to both a new team and surroundings far different from those in England.
“For [Magno] it’s not the question of if, it’s just where he’ll be playing soccer when he’s done [at Loyola].”
— Neil Jones, Loyola men’s soccer
“It definitely took him a while to get going,” Jones said. “With new arrivals, it’s always a challenge, but [international players] adjusting to life in the United States, it can be a real struggle initially. They need to adjust to the stark differences in our cultures and for some players that can be really daunting at first.”
Despite these initial struggles to acclimate, Magno still made his presence known on the pitch for the Ramblers. Beginning his career as a right back — a position he had rarely played before — he appeared in 13 matches as a first-year and recorded one assist over 1,013 minutes of game time.
Jones said later in the season — after Magno adjusted to his natural position of central midfield — that the coaching staff realized the talent and potential they had on their hands going forward.
“It was our [Missouri Valley Conference] tournament game against Evansville, which was our last game of the season in 2017,” Jones said. “We obviously were really disappointed for the game to end as it did and lose, but we were like, ‘Wow, the future’s really bright for that kid.’ He’s got a lot of talent after the way he played.”
Following a successful close to his first season, Magno parlayed that into a breakout 2018 campaign as a sophomore. He appeared in 15 matches for the Ramblers in the center of their midfield as he logged a full 90 minutes in 10 matches and picked up Second Team All-MVC honors in the process.
As the Ramblers’ season continues in 2019, Jones said Magno will continue to be a constant for Loyola’s midfield and stressed just how important the midfielder is to their game plan and goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament.
“I think he’s one of the most important players on our team and one of the best players in the conference for many reasons,” Jones said. “Just his overall leadership on the field, his ability, his tenacity, his fight and his desire to win at all costs and he’s at a key position in the field to begin attacks for us and stop attacks for the opposing team.”
Now an upperclassman and leader for the Ramblers as he enters his third season, Magno said he’s remaining focused on the team’s goals and the process of achieving them. Despite this, Magno said it’s hard not to have professional soccer radar — something Jones said he’ll see plenty of after graduation in 2021.
“For [Magno] it’s not the question of if, it’s just where he’ll be playing soccer when he’s done [at Loyola],” Jones said. “To get a contract as an international player here in the U.S., you have to be special and for me I think he’s a special player and I know some teams are already tracking him. One thing to me is certain and that there’s more soccer in [Magno’s] career after he leaves Loyola — that’s for sure.”