At the end of the spring 2021 season, graduate defensive midfielder and team captain Giann Magno suffered a season-ending knee injury, forcing him to undergo surgery and rest over the summer.
He pushed himself through rehabilitation to return healthy for his fifth year as a Rambler. Graduate goalkeeper Marcel Kampman said he respects Magno’s drive to recover over the summer.
“Right when preseason really rolled around, that was when he was just starting to get back into playing,” Kampman said. “I have a lot of respect for him for that because it is not an easy thing to come back from a major injury, especially when your senior season is on the line.”
This season, Magno helped lift Loyola to a 9-5-2, 6-3-1 conference record and a semifinals appearance in the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) Tournament against the University of Evansville. For his efforts, Magno was honored as a member of the All-MVC First Team while also being named to the MVC All-Tournament Team.
Before suffering his injury, Magno couldn’t step on to the pitch again until spring 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As an international athlete away from his family, Magno said the pandemic was a tough experience because he couldn’t travel home, but that a reliable support system guided him through tough times.
“[Typically], I am able to go home twice a year, usually in the summer and then during Christmas, but because of COVID I wasn’t able to go home for a whole year,” Magno said in an interview. “It was tough, but I had to rely on the people here, the support systems I had in my friends, teammates, and coaches that really got me through it.”
While most of his other teammates went home during the pandemic, Magno stayed in Chicago while he recovered from his injury. Unable to return home, Magno said graduate goalkeeper Marcel Kampman, an international athlete from Wellington, New Zealand also unable to go home, and family friends in the city supported him throughout the pandemic.
“We’ve tried to stay with each other, support each other,” Magno said. “I also have family friends, friends of my parents who live in Chicago. Every now and then they drop me food and supplies whenever I needed it.”
Kampman said it helped to share the experience with another international athlete while keeping each other company.
“It was nice to have someone there going through the same thing [when] you are far away from your family, you can’t go home,” Kampman said. “It was nice to have someone share the journey with you.”
During his time on the team, Magno has faced the challenge of playing top Division I teams, such as conference rival Missouri State University, while having to adapt to a new country and experience the COVID-19 pandemic far from home.
Originally from Buxton, England, Magno came to Loyola after a youth career at Derby County Football Club. He said he thought American soccer wasn’t going to be similar to the style of play he was used to in England. He said he quickly learned that collegiate soccer is a very tough and intense game, as seen in the physical play of his MVC rivals that pressured him as he controlled the ball in the midfield, making it hard for him to adjust.
Magno said he was helped through his early struggles by strong leadership on the team. Then-senior forward and captain Elliot Collier, an international athlete from Hamilton, New Zealand, helped him adjust to the team and college life in America, Magno said.
“He kind of helped me get in that perspective and during that transition period getting used to not just soccer life here but school life as an international,” he said.
Magno also said Jones was key to helping him adapt and grow on the team to become a better player and person, while also helping him grow as a student transitioning to an entirely foreign schooling system.
He went through a number of changes, including switching positions, which helped him utilize his expertise at controlling the ball, Magno said. He said he switched from right back to become a defensive midfielder and found success dictating games by controlling the ball. Magno’s effect on ball control is evident in Loyola’s 14.44 shots per game this season compared to their opponents’ 7.75 shots per game.
“My true position is a defensive midfielder,” Magno said. “In that position, you can dictate and control the pace of the game just by how you act on the ball and how you win the ball back. I think one thing that has really improved over the years is my ability to cover ground to win the ball back.”
Graduate midfielder Tyler Biggs said it’s hard to measure the impact of a player like Magno based on statistics, adding that he believes Magno will be remembered as one of the most impactful players in program history because of his skill at his position.
After settling into his role as a defensive midfielder, Magno said he had his most successful season in 2019. Loyola won the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournament on their home field, which was an amazing feeling, he said.
“That really was a team effort, everyone really dug deep to do their part to help the collective goal,” he said. “That bought us a ticket into the NCAA tournament, but unfortunately, we lost to Kentucky.”
Despite the challenges of injuries and a pandemic, Magno grew as a leader in the locker room and on the pitch. Kampman said Magno led by example and always stuck to his word, pushing himself and others to improve.
“He’s just one of the hardest workers that I’ve ever met,” he said. “He’ll be true to his word and he’ll try to lead by example. That’s a really good thing to look at as a teammate because I know if Giann says something, I don’t have to question whether he’s going to do it or not.”