Who is Maxi Moralez? A Liga MX perspective on NYCFC’s new signing

Maximiliano Moralez - NYCFC - 2007 U-20 World Cup final

With this week’s news that New York City FC have made Maxi Moraleztheir newest Designated Player via a transfer from Mexico’s Club Leon, we reached out to former correspondent Tom Marshall in search of further perspective on the talented Argentine attacker.

Based in Guadalajara, Marshall covers Liga MX and the Mexican national team for ESPNFC and shared some valuable information with our own Ben Baer about the man that some believe could become City’s Sebastian Giovinco.

Ben Baer: What's Moralez like as a player?

Tom Marshall: Highly technical, tricky and adept at sniffing out space to operate in. We didn’t see it much in Mexico, but he is also a good set-piece taker and sharp in the penalty area. It’s an exciting signing for NYCFC.

BB: What are his best and worst attributes?

TM: NYC’s newest player likes the ball at his feet, enjoys running at defenders and seeks to dictate play by finding space in between the opposition’s defense and midfield, or behind the fullbacks if he is playing on the wing.

In terms of weaknesses, Moralez isn’t great defensively and doesn’t pose much threat aerially, although he is robust considering his size, which is likely a byproduct of coming of age as a player in Argentina’s first division. You could also argue that he should score more goals, given how high up the field he plays.

BB: Is he best on the wing, or playing underneath a striker, similar to how Frank Lampard played with NYCFC?

TM: I’d say his ideal position is a No. 10 in a 4-2-3-1, with the freedom to drift and create. However, it depends on the system. In a 4-3-3 he could play on the left cutting onto his favored right foot, or over on the right.

BB: Is there any other player in MLS (or the world) you'd compare him to, stylistically and talent-wise?

TM: A little like Mexico and LA Galaxy star Giovani dos Santos in terms of style and versatility, although Moralez is right-footed. Moralez actually scored the winning goal in the 2007 Under-20 World Cup [pictured above] quarterfinal to send Dos Santos’ Mexico out of the tournament. The other reference in MLS would be Toronto’s Giovinco, although the bar is particularly high there if the Argentine is to live up to the Italian’s standards!

Who is Maxi Moralez? A Liga MX perspective on NYCFC’s new signing - //

BB: Is there any particular reason why he lost playing time towards the end of his stint with Leon?

TM: It was a strange year or so for Moralez at Leon, not helped by him playing under three different coaches in 12 months. Moralez was brought in to replace attacking midfielder Carlos “Gullit” Pena by coach Juan Antonio Pizzi and was a major signing for the Liga MX institution, but the Spanish-Argentine [coach] left weeks later to take over the Chilean national team. Under incoming coach Luis Fernando Tena, Moralez initially struck up a decent partnership with striker Mauro Boselli, but gradually lost favor as the Clausura 2016 playoffs swung around and Luis Montes was preferred in the attacking midfield role.

When Argentine Javier Torrente came in midway through the Clausura 2016, results immediately picked up for Leon, but Moralez was on the bench, with German Cano preferred behind Boselli and Montes and Elias Hernandez on the wings.

A fresh start north of the border will probably be good for him.

BB: Any feel for how he might fit at NYCFC or in MLS?

TM: If Patrick Viera goes with a 4-3-3, you’d have to think Moralez will slot in on one of the flanks. In terms of the league, Moralez should do very well. It didn’t happen for him in Mexico, but he’s proven in Serie A [with Atalanta] and should be a shrewd addition for NYCFC.