Maximiliano Moralez is a 33-year-old, born in Argentina, who made his debut for Racing Club in the Argentine Primera División more than a decade ago. He then joined Vélez Sársfield. In 2009 helping them to become the champions in his first season. On 27 July 2011, Atalanta B.C., recently promoted to the Serie A, paid Moralez’s buyout clause to Vélez Sársfield. The Argentine midfielder was introduced by his new club three days later. In 2017 he was signed by New York City as a designated player. Since then he has played 92 matches scoring 20 goals and providing 45 assists and has been pivotal in New York City success.
In this scout report, we will do a tactical analysis about what makes him so important for New York City and what makes him top attacking midfielders in Major League Soccer.
It is interesting to observe Moralez’s tactics in positioning even though he plays the role of number 10. As an attacking midfielder along with the ability to play in centre of the pitch, he has the skills to play even on both the flanks and is extremely dangerous out wide. He prefers playing on the left but if needed he can switch the flanks depending on the tactics. His technique in the wide areas makes him dangerous on the pitch.
He loves to play high up the pitch but since NYCFC build from the back he also drops back to provide passing options for his teammates. This helps New York City in the build-up phase. The good presence of mind and positioning also allows him to recover the ball. This adds to his defensive capabilities along with his brilliance while attacking. His heatmap below shows his positioning on the pitch.
Goal contribution per 90
The image above shows Moralez’s importance for New York City in goal contribution. He has the highest expected assists for them. He has an xA of 0.25 and xG of 0.33 only second after Heber who plays as a centre-forward with an expected xG of 0.47. This shows how NYCFC relies on Moralez for creating key chances in the final third and providing assists to the striker. He made 4.35 passes per match to penalty area which was more than of his other counterparts from NYCFC.
Here Moralez receives the pass on the left in the attacking third. He holds the balls for few seconds and waits for Heber to make the run. He sees the empty space in the penalty box and provides a lob pass to Heber Santos who played with current Liverpool star Roberto Firmino in the youth team. This resulted in a goal for NYCFC at a very crucial juncture. They were 1-0 down against Colorado Rapids and Moralez provided an assist through which NYCFC was able to equalize. This helped them to gain the momentum back and later winning the game. It also shows how well he links up with Herber and plays a key role for NYCFC in delivering into the final third.
When we look at the midfielders in MLS 2019, Moralez has the highest number for an average number of long passes per match for players who have played more than 10 matches with an accuracy of 59%.
Moralez has this amazing skill of breaking an opponent’s defence by clipping a ball that allows the NYCFC attackers to run in-behind the opposition defence. Here he is given ample time and space.
An interesting point here is that before playing the ball he made the vertical run inside to create space. He also had the option to provide the long ball on the left-wing. Instead, he made a good decision and with the skill he has he clipped the ball over Columbus Crew’s last line of defence. Valentin Castellanos made a good run in behind the defenders and was able to receive the ball in the open space. This resulted in a goal which was the only goal of the match leading NYCFC to win. It also shows his link up and communication with his teammates.
One more point to be noted here is this time he provides the ball with this left foot from the right. While we saw earlier he was able to provide a great ball with his right foot from the left side. This show even though his preferred foot is right he can do equally dangerous things with the left foot. This makes him dangerous from both the flanks as well.
He makes close to an average of 10 progressive passes per match with an accuracy of 86.9%. On further analysis of his stats, he averages 19.97m per pass which puts him in the top half when looking at average pass length.
The above picture shows how accurate he is with progressive passes. There can be some improvement in the accuracy for passes under 20m. There can be no doubt in the consistency through which he delivers the long-range passes over 20m. Moralez made a total of 151 progressive passes over 20m from which he made 139 accurate passes. This means his pass accuracy for passes over 20m was a whopping 92.05%. A very impressive long-range passing statistic
One of the top areas of Moralez is his long progressive passes which can be easily seen in the above statistics.
Here once again Moralez holds the ball for few seconds and waits for Jesus Medina to make a run between the last line of defence. Once he sees Medina make a run he lobs the ball behind the last line of Portland Timbers defence. As a result, this takes seven players out of the equation and a one on one against the goalkeeper for Medina. This shows his ability to wait and pass the ball during the right moment and how he helps NYCFC to create dangerous attacks.
Passes into the penalty area
This shows his ability to pass into important positions in the penalty area creating chances for his teammates. This graph also shows his ability to create chances from different areas of the pitch. This allows their manager to move him as per the requirement and tactics of the match. One such example is against Portland Timbers where he is playing wide on the left-hand side of the pitch as a left-winger but in the second half, he is shifted high on the right-hand side as right attacking central midfielder.
Moralez is surrounded by two Portland players who try to put pressure on him and win the ball. Even in this situation, he finds a way to pass the ball wide in the penalty box. He uses outside of his right foot to play a beautiful through pass to Ronald Matarrita. This results in a good shot by Matarrita.
The picture above shows his ability to recover on any part of the pitch helping team while in the transition from offence to defence. The recoveries in the centre of the pitch have helped to prevent dangerous attacks by the opposition.
Here in the above picture, Moralez drops back in his own penalty area when out of possession. He comes from back putting pressure and tackles Toronto’s player. This breaks Toronto’s attack in the dangerous area allowing NYCFC to recover. As a result, possession changes hands and NYCYFC are able to counter-attack. He is also equally effective in the opposition final third for putting pressure and recovering the ball. The below table shows his effectiveness in the final third.
50% of his recovery in the final third have been in Zone 14 which is most favourable for the dangerous attacks. Zone 14 is a piece of land located in the last third of the field. If we divide the land into 18 rectangles, we have a grid of 6 x 3 that mark 18 zones. Zone 14 is located in front of the rival’s box. In this position, the statistical potential for chances to be created by technically gifted footballers is great.
According to the research, teams were more than four times more likely to score goals by playing directly into the penalty area than playing laterally to the wings. In other words, fewer goals would be scored through possession leaving zone 14 to the wide areas. Possession time is another reason why the ball leaving zone 14 should be passed into the penalty area directly.
These recoveries have created an xG of 0.42. Six out of 16 of the recoveries in zone 14 led to shots. Also, he recovered four times in the left-hand side on the edge of the penalty box which created xG of 0.39.
Here Moralez puts pressure on left-wing in the final third of the pitch. He closes down and as a result, the Columbus Crew left-back is forced to pass the ball. This results in a poor pass which is intercepted by Moralez. He then runs down the left-wing and wins a free kick for NYCFC. This shows his effectiveness even in the final third constantly putting pressure on the opposition to stop the attack from building.
Moralez is not the tallest of the player nor he is really someone with the body strength to bring players down. He is only 160 cm tall. In a league like MLS where there are players with great body strength, there is a cause of concern for Moralez in aerial duels. Even though with his height he is not expected to do extremely well in aerial duels he only won a meagre 14% of the aerial duels attempted. This puts him in the bottom five when comparing to his counterparts. It shows he needs to work on aerial duels.
Moralez tries to jump and win the aerial duel. He jumps late and also the body strength and height of the Philadephia Union player does not help Moralez. As a result, Moralez fails to win the duel resulting in the change of possession.
The Argentine understands the game pretty well and has the technical ability to match. He is an attacking midfielder who might not have the height and strength as his quality but has all the creative and technical skills to penetrate the opposition’s defence and create dangerous attacks for NYCFC. Even though he is 33 he will play an important role for NYCFC if they are to win the MLS title. His experience and coordination with the NYCFC players is also an important attribute that helps the team.
Having played for two years in MLS, the challenge for Moralez and NYCFC lies in finding out the ways to be creative and effective in the game as the opposition would have done the analysis and would want him to prevent him from getting on the ball.
The 2020 season for NYCFC looks to be another exciting campaign for them with an increase in expectations from Moralez.