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2022 Player Preview: Maxi Moralez

Can the playmaker orchestrate a run at a second title?

New York City FC Vs Philadelphia Union
Maxi can make the ball dance.
Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

Maxi Moralez

Age: 34

Position: Attacking Midfielder

2021 League Games: 30 games, 27 starts, 2385 minutes played

2021 Postseason Games: 4 games, 4 starts, 420 minutes played

What went right in 2021:

New York City FC couldn’t have won the MLS Cup without Maxi Moralez. While you could say that about every starter who featured in those four postseason games, Moralez was arguably the greatest among equals: With one goal and three assists, he directly contributed to four out of NYCFC’s seven goals. More than that, he was the creative force in the midfield that always kept the opposition off-balance, a 34-year-old Tasmanian devil of cuts, dribbles, give-and-gos, changes of direction, flicks, lobs, switches, and splitting passes that confused the defenses of the best teams in MLS.

In those four playoff games, Moralez delivered on the playmaking promise of what is arguably the best Designated Player signing in the short history of NYCFC.

All of that was on top of a regular season in which Moralez was a workhorse, starting 27 games and logging 2385 minutes played. That was good enough for fifth-best on the team, just behind 24-year-old ironman Keaton Parks and just above the 21-year-old James Sands. He was also the most-fouled player on the squad—an honor bestowed on him four out of the last five years. Maxi, we hope you had a relaxing offseason: Slept in, took some deep soaks, painted some still-lifes. You deserved every minute of your me-time.

What to improve in 2022:

Moralez will turn 35 on February 27, the same day that NYCFC opens the 2022 season against Los Angeles Galaxy. While he can't roll back time (at least not without a flux capacitor), the playmaker can save his strength for the games that count the most: Moralez doesn't need to improve, just maintain. We don't want to jinx it, but the hope is that NYCFC will once again make a deep run into something that rhymes with “day-offs,” and take home another something that rhymes with “yup.”

That means delegating some of the midfield responsibilities to playmaker-in-waiting Santiago Rodríguez, and sharing duties with Gedion Zelalem. While the game day lineup might be manager Ronny Deila’s responsibility, you get the sense that Moralez always wants to play. It’s time to soften that stance, make fewer starts—and get banged around by fewer fouls. The best thing Moralez can do this year is to play at the same level as he did in 2021, which means playing less.

What to expect in 2022:

Ideally, this will be a transitional year for Moralez and NYCFC. No longer a DP for City, it’s time for Moralez to mentor Rodríguez and solidify the club’s identity as a team that plays attractive, possessive, progressive football that dazzles, and delights, and wins games.

Fewer games + same quality of play = more silverware: If Moralez pulls back on the throttle a little, he can once again take this team far.

More 2022 Player Previews:

Nicolás Acevedo

Thiago Andrade

Alexander Callens

Taty Castellanos

Maxime Chanot

Tayvon Gray

Héber

Sean Johnson

Thiago Martins

Keaton Parks

Santiago Rodríguez

Talles Magno

Gedion Zelalem