The reunion between Maxi Moralez and New York City FC is now official: Earlier today it was announced that the playmaker re-signed with the team as a free agent on a new contract that runs through 2024. Based on the unveiling videos released by NYCFC, it looks like the team’s old No 10 is now the new No 27, which will take some getting used to.
Moralez only announced his departure from NYCFC seven months ago, but his return home to Argentina to play for his boyhood club Racing Club de Avellaneda was cut short. Exactly one week ago, word broke that Moralez was terminating his contract with Racing and returning to NYCFC, and now we know the details of his arrival.
While the MLS Secondary Transfer Window closed on Wednesday, August 2nd, Moralez is still able to join NYCFC as a free agent since his contract with Racing was torn up prior to the close of the window.
Moralez didn’t play a ton during his brief interregnum back in Argentina. He made 23 appearances in all competitions in his latest stint with Racing, but 14 came as a substitute. Moralez discussed his exit from Racing with media in Argentina and lamented his lack of playing time, but that likely won’t be a problem at NYCFC.
How will the return of the 36-year-old attacking midfielder shake up the current version of the team? Scoring goals and playing consistently positive attacking soccer have been recurring struggles for the 2023 version of NYCFC, so signing a player who has scored 30 goals and added 60 assists across six MLS seasons would seem like a positive addition.
The player that NYCFC seemed to bring in to directly replace Maxi’s role and production, loanee Richy Ledezma, now might be facing a crunch for playing time, both as a No 10 or as a wide attacker.
Santiago Rodríguez, who wears the actual No 10 jersey Maxi left behind last December, has functioned in numerous roles this season, shifting between being the team’s traditional attacking central midfielder, the False 9 when New York City played sans striker, or as a wide attacker when Ledezma has been in the central midfield and another player has been up top at striker, as was the case in the big recent win over Toronto FC. Maxi isn’t likely to supplant Santi, but he adds another option to play alongside James Sands or Keaton Parks in midfield, which could also eat into the minutes of players like Alfredo Morales or Justin Haak.
Can Maxi still perform given his age and his underwhelming season spent with Racing back in Argentina? He still looked to have something valuable to give late in NYCFC’s 2022 season, as the team’s hot stretch that took them back to the Eastern Conference Final hinged primarily on some masterful performances from both Maxi and Santi.
The make-up of the roster has changed significantly since Maxi last played a game with NYCFC, and has changed even more during this summer’s just-closed transfer window. Maxi is joined by Andrés Perea as a newly-arrived central midfielders now at coach Nick Cushing’s disposal, and he also joins a trio of newly-recruited attacking players—Mounsef Bakrar, Julián Fernández, and Alonso Martínez.
NYCFC are just removed from crashing out of Leagues Cup in a flat, sloppy loss to the rival Red Bulls in the Round of 32, and have 12 days to go before they play another MLS league game.
The onus is now on Cushing and his coaching staff to work with this heavily remade roster and start the process of clawing back toward the MLS Cup Playoff line from way down in 13th place in the Eastern Conference. The math and odds are not in NYCFC’s favor, but there is likely to be some hope that bringing back one of the club’s best-ever players will breathe fresh air into what’s been a stale, forgettable 2023 season.