In the words of Joseph Campbell, "myths are public dreams." They are collective narratives which organically spring from shared experience. One of the biggest collective experiences in our culture today is sports. For this reason, the way in which we consume sports is inherently narrative driven.
Marcelo Sarvas and Landon Donovan were heroes. Amongst Galaxy fans, there is no other way to describe the mythology that surrounds them. Their departure, then, has understandably left a collective need for new heroes to rally around.
When the lineups were announced on Saturday night, Galaxy fans were downright giddy upon learning that Ignacio Maganto would be making his long awaited debut. Maganto is an intriguing player. Few draft picks in recent years have had Galaxy fans as excited for their debut as this Spanish playmaker.
The story of Nacho Maganto is one that came out of nowhere, considering how little enthusiasm Galaxy fans showed going into the draft. The Galaxy had a low pick and Bruce's draft history was one patterned toward taking the boring but effective route of drafting defenders.
By drafting Nacho, a bonafide playmaker whose nickname couldn't be more perfect for a team whose mascot dresses up like a taco on the regular, Bruce Arena threw us all for a loop and ignited the curiosity of the Galaxy faithful. Could this intriguing Spaniard fill our heroic void?
Obviously fans love playmakers and highlight reels like this are enough to get you drooling, but I also think that embedded in Nacho's story is an inherently attractive narrative which human beings have gravitated towards since the dawn of human mythology.
Luke Skywalker was a lowly nerf herder on Tatooine, but he was destined for greatness by way of his lineage. Harry Potter followed the same arc— born to great wizards but was plucked from a lowly life under his uncle's staircase. In storytelling language, elite pedigree in an obscure environment foreshadows heroic greatness.
And here we have a kid in Nahco who just last year was playing soccer at a college that had fewer than 5,000 students enrolled. If there is a college soccer equivalent of Tatooine, it's Iona College. However, like Luke Skywalker, the obscurity of his surroundings masked a certain pedigree that set him apart from those around him.
When Ignacio Maganto was 14, he entered the Getafe youth system in Madrid where he played for 5 years. From 2010 to 2011, Nacho was beginning to make the occasional appearance on the bench for the Getafe reserves in Spain's second division. In the world of Spanish soccer, an 18 year old cracking the bench for a Segunda B squad is hardly a meteoric rise, but it's also nothing to sneeze at. More importantly, fans in America tend to associate European development with magic pixie dust, so, justified or not, his background is certainly grounds for hype.
For the first 8 games of the season, fans held a certain level of anticipation knowing Maganto was on the bench, however, Bruce elected not to use him. His inclusion in the starting lineup against Colorado on Saturday was thus as surprising as it was exciting. So how did the kid do?
Maganto was quick on the night— always active and not afraid to move inside. In the 11th minute he darted outside and provided a precise cross which nearly resulted in a goal.
I like to get the ball. I'm confident with the ball... I tried to get the ball to my feet and tried to move.
And move he did. As the game wore on, Nacho began to roam the field more and more, which is the hallmark of true playmaker— the constant desire to get the ball and positively affect play.
I tried to get passes to my teammates and tried to move forward every time.
This roaming is reflected in his heat map.
Nacho could consistently be found lurking at the top of the box in anticipation of potential rebounds to drive towards goal. In the final moments of the first half, Nacho, who lined up at left mid to start the game, could be found making a run off of Dan Gargan by the right side corner flag. The kid was absolutely everywhere.
Bruce Arena seemed particularly pleased with his activeness.
I thought he played with a lot of confidence. He was aggressive on the ball. He was somebody that they had to focus on. He did a good job, didn't play conservative and was pretty aggressive.
Bruce is dead on in his assessment here. Nacho was active and constantly looking to make things happen. Perhaps the best example of this came around the 33rd minute when he opted for a quick take on a free kick, switching the field with a beautiful diagonal ball that unlocked Colorado's defense and nearly lead to a Gyasi Zardes goal.
Unhappy with the lack of combination from Jamieson and Zardes in the first half, Bruce opted to move Jamieson out left and play Nacho underneath Zardes in a 4-2-3-1 in the second half. Bruce made this switch with Maganto's playmaking prowess in mind.
He's got good feet. Maybe he can make a play and help create some chances with his passing. He's creative. I didn't think Jamieson and Zardes were necessarily playing well off of each other. We wanted to see if we could change it a bit with Nacho there and I think Nacho did all right.
"I was trying to connect more in the middle," Nacho explained, describing playing under Zardes in the second half.
Although he was unable to produce that killer pass that Galaxy fans are all hoping he can provide for this team, he undoubtedly showed a relentless desire to provide said pass, and this is reflected in his proactive movement. Ultimately, Maganto didn't light things up on the night, but he put in a solid performance that hints at great underlying potential.
But life is not mythology, unfortunately, and there is no guarantee that Nacho is going to ascend to the level of demi-god ( see Juninho slaying the Hydra). Nacho certainly has talent, but like Bradford Jamieson IV and Jose Villarreal, this talent will inevitably lead to high expectations from a fan base desperate for new heroes. Ultimately, fans may end up setting their expectations too high.
By tying the narrative of our hopes for this team so closely to these players, we become prone to reactionary knee jerk conclusions. Of course, as unfair as this can be on the players, the way in which fans consume sports is deeply ingrained in our humanity, and ultimately what makes them so thrilling. We invest ourselves in our teams and this is not something that can or should change.
What did you think of Nacho's performance?