In a season that looks like David Villa will miss a considerable amout of games — the most he’s ever missed in a season wearing the City Blue — the need for another player to step up, not simply as a playmaker, but as a leader was sorely needed throughout this season. Fortunately for the Bronx faithful, several players have risen to the call to keep the season pushing forward. And while the stalwart efforts of Alexander Ring and the goal-scoring prowess of Ismael Tajouri-Shradi have won special places in the fanbase’s conversation, perhaps no other player has stepped up for New York City FC like Maxi Moralez. While he has not received much publicity nationally within MLS, the numbers more than speak for themselves.
Maxi Moralez has been responsible for 17 goals (goals + assists); just as many as BWP and Miguel Almirón. He trails only Ignacio Piatti (18) and Josef Martinez (22). #NYCFC— Christian Araos (@Christian_Araos) July 16, 2018
Maxi’s playmaking this season has put him in great company with some of the elite attackers in MLS. For the season, Maxi ranks among the league leaders in several offensive categories. While he may not be a buzz worthy on the national scene, his play has definitely been on par with many in that category.
Maxi Moralez MLS Ranks
|Game Winning Assists||4||2nd (Tied)|
|Key Passes||3.2||3rd (Tied)|
|Goals + Assists||17||4th|
As you can see, Maxi has been a top 5 player in many of the major statistical categories you would want to see from your no. 10. And as Christian Araos tweeted, Maxi has been actively involved in 17 of City’s 40 goals so far this season, meaning he’s made an impact on 42.5% of NYCFC goals created so far this season. That’s definitely the type of impact you want from one of your Designated Players. Add that to the fact he’s been able to do so despite David Villa missing so many games this season, and it’s helped to explain how NYCFC has kept pace with Atlanta United for much of the season.
Heading into this season, I was rather down on Maxi as a player to be honest. In the second half of last season, when the club became so anemic on the offensive end, I put a lot of the blame squarely on Maxi’s shoulders. I even pointed out how Toronto FC had lapped us in terms of talent acquisition by getting a player better than Maxi in Victor Vasquez last fall.
And then there’s Maxi Moralez. Maxi had a pretty good season in 2017 (5 goals, 9 assists), but it’s hard to call it DP-worthy, even if he was more impactful than Pirlo and able to stay on the field more than Lampard. The fact of the matter is that a player like Maxi should be more equivalent to what is expected out of a TAM signing rather than a DP signing — at least when considering the club’s aspirations of winning MLS Cup. To wit, juxtapose Maxi’s production with Toronto FC and their key TAM signing this season, Victor Vazquez. Vazquez nearly doubled Maxi’s production with 8 goals and 16 assists. (And once again, that is not as a DP signing, but as a TAM player for Toronto.) Maxi’s efforts doubling as a box-to-box midfielder for so many games this season can be applauded, and his willingness to track back has been helpful to the defense, but his performance was just not DP-level. Especially not for the type of club that NYCFC aspires to be.
It was clear that I was a harsh critic of Maxi up until now. But credit has to be given where it is due. Converse to last season, Maxi has become much more than a ‘nice to have’ player on this roster. He’s become a fulcrum on offense, and a true leader on the pitch stepping in and filling the void of not having Villa for several games this season. There is still room for Maxi to grow, too, as we are still learning how new manager Domènec Torrent is going to unlock this roster in the remaining months. Whereas Vieira counted on Maxi to maintain possession, even going as far as the backline to receive the ball at times, Torrent has kept Maxi further up the pitch in the few games he’s been in charge, even using him in a false 9 role.
And while Maxi’s 10 assists on the season are great to see, it’s important to also state that 8 of those assists have come at home. And while that in of itself is not a problem, City has been in the bit of an extended slump on the road. With that in mind, the club has two road matches this week — tonight against Orlando City SC, and this Sunday against the Seattle Sounders. Let’s see if Maxi’s impact can be felt on these next two games so City can get back to earning important points on the road.