He might not be Sebastian Giovinco, but make no mistake, New York City FC’s Maxi Moralez will play a major role for the team moving forward. The rhetoric of the offseason has often been about who will replace Frank Lampard in NYCFC’s midfield, and rightfully so. Lampard tallied an impressive twelve goals and three assists in 19 appearances last season, including a month of July where he tallied six goals and one assist to win the Etihad Airways Player of the Month award.
After last week’s disappointing performance in Orlando for the season opener, NYCFC was motivated to come out at home and make a statement early against D.C. United – and they did just that. The boys in blue secured three valuable points with a 4-0 win over the visitors thanks to an early goal from newcomer Rodney Wallace, a David Villa brace and a goal from Moralez.
Moralez seemed much more comfortable in his second game with NYCFC, as he displayed a unique ability to receive the ball in pockets of space and pick an accurate pass out similar to his Italian midfield counterpart. The Argentine seemingly enjoyed the freedom that he has in this Patrick Vieira system, where he has room to operate and has the ability to impact the game in different positions. Moralez dropped back in a deeper role when NYCFC had difficulties maintaining possession, picking a pass out to relieve pressure or dribbling past the oncoming defender with his excellent first touch. Moralez was able to get his much-deserved first goal through a well-timed run from midfield and an excellent pass from Villa.
The ex-Atalanta man finished the game with a goal and assist, as well as a perfect ball to Rodney Wallace that set up Villa’s first goal. His impact has been felt immediately by some of his peers, with Jack Harrison telling NYCFC Nation after the game that he is “a great player, his awareness, his vision, his passing and technical ability is amazing.” Moralez also has had a positive impression on reigning MLS MVP David Villa, who recently said that “when he has the ball, he makes something happen, so I need to be ready. It’s like Andrea, it looks like they don’t see you but they see you.”
It’s still very early in the season, but Sunday’s performance against D.C. United was promising and provided an idea of the type of football we can expect to see from this NYCFC team moving forward. This is no longer the team that has to so heavily depend on moments of brilliance from Villa. NYCFC has more than enough support moving forward from the likes of Wallace, Harrison, Moralez, and Matarrita, with options like McNamara, Shelton, and Okoli on the bench. But before we get too ahead of ourselves, let’s remember that NYCFC gave up seven goals to Toronto to conclude the season. Scoring goals was never an issue with NYCFC, and this team will only be able to advance deep in the MLS playoffs if the defense is up to par. Only time will tell.