Blue Magic | Maxi Moralez 


Soccer: a game of magic moments.

A last-minute win, an incredible comeback, a breathtaking goal… It never ceases to amaze.

Just as an orchestra needs its conductor, a soccer team needs its magician: the playmaker pulling the strings, who can conjure something from nothing at any time. 

For New York City Football Club, that man has been Maximiliano ‘Maxi’ Moralez.

The word ‘legend’ is overused in the football conversation du jour but for Moralez, there can be no question of his credentials for that mantle.

Signing as the Club’s third Designated Player in February 2017, he has played an integral role in the team’s rise and cemented his eternal status in the hearts of NYCFC fans everywhere. Upon his arrival in the Big Apple five years ago, he stated simply: “I came here to win” and that he did – an ambition fulfilled in magnificent fashion thanks to Maxi’s genius.

As the midfield maestro calls time on his career with the Club, returning to Racing, his boyhood club in Argentina, the magnitude of his absence sharpens into focus, as do the countless special memories he has pulled out of that all-encompassing hat.

Cherishing his time in Bronx blue, this is not a decision he has taken lightly, but one he feels is right for him and his family, as he chases a dream career curtain call.

“It’s a difficult decision, one of the hardest decisions in my career,” he admitted. “It’s always nice to make decisions to join a Club but of the three teams abroad where I played, leaving this one was the most difficult because it was almost six years – reaching goals, feeling good, the fans made me feel great.

“That makes the decision doubly difficult after living here: what this city means… It’s the best in the world. I will always remember the best, the victories, the defeats, the Championships we won – the moments lived that you take to the grave. 

“It is the only Club in which I was at for a long time. It fills me with pride because it is a great Club, city and family. I will always remember them.”

Moralez returns to Racing to fulfill a personal aspiration of once again donning the shirt for the side that started it all, bookending a sensational globetrotting career.

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Born in Fray Luis Beltrán, three hours from Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires, his career journey began at his new home at Racing where he started out as a 13-year-old and progressed through the ranks to make his senior debut as a teenager in the 2005 Torneo Clausura. He went on to star with La Academia over two spells and now completes the ‘hat-trick’, with his beloved family this time cheering him on from the stands.

“I have always said it: it is where I started,” he declared. “They raised me – the Club that gave me the opportunity to be a professional, and send me to the soccer league where I am today. That is a dream for my children, for my family: to be able to see me play there, so hopefully I can have it and the decision I made goes in the best way.”

Though diminutive in stature at 5’ 3”, the midfielder has always been someone to stand tall on the biggest occasions: from the goal that staved off relegation for Racing, to a title-clinching strike for Vélez, as well as pivotal efforts in New York’s 2021 MLS Cup-winning playoffs run, and a Campeones Cup Final clincher in 2022.

Across his 192 games for the City, he has scored 35 goals, crafted 59 assists and lifted two trophies.

He dazzled from day one, delighting fans with a goal and set-up on his home debut against D.C. United, and extended his artistic streak into each of the following campaigns, averaging a goal involvement every other game.

He recorded his best return in the 2019 season, tallying an astonishing 20 assists (becoming only the third Major League Soccer player to achieve the feat), earning deserved acclaim with league recognition and a second successive Fan Player of the Year award.

Of his 35 City strikes, there have been efforts from all angles and of all types - and some of the utmost importance: five goals in MLS Playoff competition, a vital go-ahead goal en route to NYCFC’s first CONCACAF Champions League semi-final, and the aforementioned superb second in the Campeones Cup.

However, the most important kick of his NYCFC career is not included in the scoring charts: an emphatic penalty conversion in the enthralling 2021 MLS Cup Final shootout win over Portland Timbers – a moment he and NYCFC will never forget.

“Like any Final, having arrived was an important step for the Club and for us,” the midfield maestro recalled. “I think we played it that way, beyond the fact it got complicated with their goal at the last minute. But we were confident with the support of our fans that made the trip, and those who were here in New York, I think we all felt the positive vibes.

“And the truth is that having reached the penalties, and scoring mine, which is not easy at all, it was a moment full of adrenaline. And then obviously Alex [Callens’] goal was an explosion of joy, excitement and everything that comes with winning away, with everything against us. We accomplished something historic for the Club.”

Although his passing, vision and composure have earned a reputation as one of the best attacking midfielders in MLS (whether occupying the #10 role, or employed in deeper or wide areas), Moralez’s game is more than the contributions at the sharp end of the pitch.

Alongside a raw passion, his game intelligence, positional adaptability and ability to control the tempo ensure he fulfils the tasks which allow others to shine around him, while he is also unafraid to pitch in with defensive duties.


Former NYCFC captain Alex Ring shone the spotlight on these lesser celebrated qualities during his time at the Club: “The assists and goals speak for themselves for how important he is for our game but something people don’t appreciate too so much is the hard work he does defensively as well, which I love him for.

“If you’re a technical player like him, and you get your team going, and you’re on the ball all the time but then do the dirty work, that’s why we appreciate it a lot, and that’s why he’s the best #10 in the league.”

These traits came to the fore for Maxi’s Argentina as they secured the FIFA World Cup in 2022. For Maxi, this grit and never-say-die mentality he shares is typical of his background and a reason why so many of his compatriots light up MLS — and world football as a whole.

He explained: “Argentinians in general always try to give their best – their characteristics are that way – so that might be why there are a lot of Argentinian players in the MLS. In Argentina, a lot of players are No. 10 – that’s why teams around the world always look for Argentinians, because it’s customary for them to play in that position. Argentinians also always want to win and are very committed to the game.”

It is not solely Moralez’s on-pitch influence that enamors him to teammates, staff and fans alike.

Highly-regarded away from pitch as a dedicated, selfless and positive individual, the midfielder is considered a consummate role model and true team player, offering his advice, expertise and even his hospitality to ensure his colleagues are also able to gel and achieve their potential.

“Maxi is an amazing person – not only Maxi but his family,” Héber hailed. “I remember my first week here: he invited me to go to his house for dinner with his family. I had never had this before in my life.

“Here at the Club, everyone likes him because he makes us happy. He is always joking and also when he works, you can see he works hard. He is one of the experienced players in our team, he is our different player – our star in the team – and he works hard. He shows for me, for the young players to do our best every day.”

The younger players in the City squad could not have wished for a more exemplary role model than “the little genius” — as fellow Club legend Ian Joy would call him.

The Club’s first Homegrown player James Sands, who is currently plying his trade on loan in Europe with Scottish Club Rangers, believes he and his fellow Academy graduates owe much to the no.10.

“I think I speak for Justin [Haak] and Joe [Scally], and the other Homegrowns as well, when I say this but watching him every day makes us get better,” Sands said. “He puts in a ton of effort and I think when you see someone like that who’s been at the top of the footballing world, it helps us, it encourages us and we want to put in the same effort he does.”

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Moralez has worked under four coaches at NYCFC: Patrick Vieira, Domènec Torrent, Ronny Deila and Nick Cushing – all of whom who have spoken highly of the playmaker; and none more so than Cushing, who dubbed the midfielder a manager’s dream.

“He is everything,” the Head Coach praised. “He’s a player, a coach… Those guys are like gold dust because in moments where you’re going to be put under pressure, you need a guy who can almost conduct the orchestra with and without the ball.

“I can’t say enough about Maxi since I came in: not only has he been motivated to produce for the team, he’s also been exceptional for me. A great guy – one I really enjoy working with – and his influence on New York City Football Club can never be underestimated.

”He is a legend of this Football Club and will be written into the legacy of New York City Football Club forever.”

The Argentine completes his City career standing as the Club’s second-highest appearance maker and having etched his name into NYCFC folklore forever; an immeasurable part of our history who did as much as anyone to put that first star on the jersey.

Fittingly, he finished with a flourish, netting in the Campeones Cup Final and bagging three times on our most recent Playoff adventure, including his 100th career goal in the memorable win over Inter Miami CF at Citi Field – a moment to be treasured forever.

Yet, his time at the Club will be remembered for more than stats and figures – his legacy will live on through the imprint of the familial culture he has helped to shape: a squad glittering with talent but unafraid of toil; possessing both a togetherness and a mental toughness, as well as the all-important mindset of what it takes to be not only a great player, but a magnificent person and teammate.

May the stars align for our paths to cross once again.

“I want to thank you for every moment, every year my family and I lived here, in this beautiful family,” Moralez smiled.  “I was very comfortable living here these long years in this beautiful family, in this beautiful Club with the people who work day-by-day. 

“It is very difficult to make a decision so today I have taken the courage to make it, today I am happy I have made a good decision for my career.

“Thank you, eternally thank you for everything and we will surely see each other again.”

Thank you for the memories, Maxi. It has been truly magical.

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