I feel like this week is just one huge negative after another. First, it was the 4-0 loss to Toronto. Then it was the fact that Domé Torrent still had a job come the following morning. And now, it’s been revealed that Maxi Moralez — who missed the rout in Toronto due to injury — is still busy recovering from an injury.
Maxi Moralez did not train with #NYCFC today. Influential Argentine midfielder missed last Friday's match in Toronto.— Kristian Dyer (@KristianRDyer) April 3, 2019
Dome Torrent said the playmaker is still feeling discomfort.
As we saw on Saturday, missing Maxi is extremely detrimental to how New York City FC plays. Throughout the Toronto game, City could only create two chances without the Argentinean playmaker’s presence. And with the No. 10 looking like he could miss another week, NYCFC are gonna have to figure out something.
Luckily for the Blues, the Montreal Impact — their opponent this upcoming Saturday — are coming off of a devastating 7-1 loss to Sporting Kansas City this past weekend and will be missing star midfielder Ignacio Piatti.
One could argue that there is no such thing as an “easy game” in a league as geared towards competitive parity as MLS, and I’m sure there’s so empirical data to back that up. However, this game — on paper at least — is fertile grounds for NYCFC to mount a recovery following a lackluster loss of their own, as well as groom new striker Héber for future matches.
It’s also a perfect time for City to experiment with a new midfielder corps to mitigate the damage done by the potential loss of Moralez.
For me, this starts with Keaton Parks.
Still awaiting his first start of 2019, Parks — who arrived on loan from Portuguese club Benfica this winter — is a bit of an anomaly. From what we can tell, however, the American midfielder possesses a well-balanced skillset both defensively and offensively, potentially remedying NYCFC’s lack of midfield creativity when Maxi is forced to watch from the touch line.
While I still see Ebenezer Ofori as a serviceable option in the defensive midfield, his overall creativity is severely lacking. Plus, he hasn’t shown that he’s better than either Alexander Ring or breakout star James Sands. And with both of those players being primarily defensive-minded, I feel this opens the door for a more balanced midfielder like Parks to potentially provide some sort of offensive prowess in what is a primarily defensive mid.
Now maybe Parks isn’t the best choice and there’s someone else suited for creating in the midfield.
Enter one Juan Pablo Torres.
JP comes into NYCFC with pretty much the same concerns as that of Parks, as they are both young American players with little experience of top-flight football.
But internationally speaking, JP Torres has perhaps the best track record offensively speaking.
With the US U-20 national team, Torres has netted scored 4 goals in 7 appearances since his first cap last year. That is a lot for a midfielder, especially for one who has never been looked at as an offensive-minded player. And if he can bring even a little bit of that to NYCFC in the wake of Maxi’s absence, then he can easily book himself for more minutes as the 2019 season progresses.
Other less sexy options include shoving Taty Castellanos or Jesus Medina into the central midfield, but I don’t expect those to be nearly as popular or optimal.
It really is a tough fix. But something is gonna have to be done this weekend, lest NYCFC go a fifth consecutive game without a win.