Reigning MLS MVP David Villa on more than a few occasions last year expressed his hope to get more help up top with so many NYCFC attacks beginning and ending with the former Spain international. That's where Moralez comes in.
A No. 10 developed by Argentine power Racing Club, Moralez will likely be compared to fellow Argentine playmakers in the league like Ignacio Piatti (Montreal Impact), Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers) or Mauro Diaz (FC Dallas). But more than any of his compatriots, the better comparison is another MVP-caliber level player: Toronto FC's Sebastian Giovinco.
Moralez and Giovinco share several technical characteristics in addition to their diminutive frame (Giovinco is 5-foot-4, 130 pounds while Moralez is 5-foot-3. 115 pounds). If you've never seen Moralez in action, you'll immediately notice the pristine first touch and just how quick and dangerous he is, especially in 1-on-1 situations, shaking off defenders with his ability to stop on a dime. His medium-range shot can decide a match.
Similar to the "Atomic Ant," the Argentine can play in practically every one of the attacking positions, although he performs better when he is situated just behind the center forward, in this case Villa. And his size shouldn't prove too much of a disadvantage as Giovinco regularly proves with a low center of gravity.
And look out, Andrea Pirlo. The right-footed Moralez will give NYCFC's Italian maestro a run for his money when it comes to set pieces and corner kicks. Like Giovinco and Pirlo, he can pick out the corners and he is especially adept at finding players in the box on corner kicks. It's that vision for the game which makes him so unique.
Don't read too much into Moralez's lack of playing time in his most recent stint at Club Leon in Mexico. Argentine head coach Juan Antonio Pizzi brought him in, but then Pizzi left to take over Chile almost immediately. His successors as head coach, Luis Fernando Tena and Javier Torrente, didn't give Moralez many minutes and if you add some injuries to the mix, you understand how Moralez didn't show his best in Mexico.
Make no mistake about it: Moralez is a major acquisition for NYCFC. His resume says it all: He starred for the Argentina Under-20 national team that featured Manchester City's Sergio Agüero and PSG's Angel Di María and he even earned the silver ball as the second best player at the 2007 Under-20 World Cup. Between 2009 and 2011 he won two Argentine league titles with Vélez Sarsfield and led them to the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores.
That was his launch pad to Europe with stops in Russia and then at Italian Serie A side Atalanta, where he was a starting XI fixture for five years, registering 18 goals and 24 assists in 142 games across all competitions.
Based on his track record, Moralez will be a leader and a strong personality at NYCFC. He was that kind of player for Atalanta and Vélez and he also rose to the occasion in tougher times, proving instrumental in helping Racing avoid relegation in 2008 with vital goals.
Just as important as his production, however, the 29-year-old Moralez will dictate the pace of a game. That's why it would seem to make most sense for him to occupy the attacking midfield slot in a 4-2-3-1, just behind Villa and with Jack Harrison, Tommy McNamara or Khiry Shelton on either side of him. With those kind of weapons around him, Moralez will score his share of goals in 2017, but he's more than likely to turn provider on this NYCFC team.
Moralez is known in Argentina by his nickname "Frasquito" ("Small Jar") – the soccer embodiment of that old Argentine saying: "Good things are always found in small jars."
Ariel Judas is an editor and reporter for FutbolMLS.com and has served as a multimedia journalist for over 20 years with Deutsche Presse Agency, Channel 9 and Radio Del Plata in Buenos Aires as well as with Radio Marca in Barcelona, Spain where he hosted a show on soccer in the Americas for six years. More recently, Judas spent three years with the E60 investigative team at ESPN Deportes.