New York City FC: Maxi Moralez injury overshadows gritty win

New York City FC, Maximiliano Moralez #10 (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images)
New York City FC, Maximiliano Moralez #10 (Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images) /

Maxi Moralez and his injury overshadow New York City FC’s win

After a frustrating draw against D.C. United last week, New York City FC went into Saturday’s game looking for a win against FC Cincinnati.  Winning both competitions last season 5-2 and 4-1, the Pigeons have so far demolished the Cincinnati side.  This time around, the match was much closer.  While Cincinnati ended their scoring drought of 558 minutes, NYCFC won the game 2-1.  What was thought to be a walk in the park turned out to be a gritty match.

For the most part, NYCFC commanded the game in the first half.  They controlled the majority of the possession, with 58.6%.  They also ended the half with 14 shots and four shots on goal.  But it was not until the 39th minute when they broke the deadlock.  A beautiful pass from Gary Mackay-Steven to Alex Ring led the captain to take a few touches before sweeping the ball past Przemyslaw Tyton.  The Orange and Blue had no chance to defend, and Ring’s goal put the Pigeons upfront.

However, the second half was a different story.  At first, NYCFC continued to play commendably and maintain control.  The Pigeons then picked up their second, and in the end, winning goal in the 55th minute.  FC Cincinnati could not clear the ball off of a NYCFC corner.  The ball then fell to Anton Tinnerholm, whose incredible shot off the volley ended in the back of the net.

Maxi Moralez ends up with a noticeable limp against FC Cincinnati

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Afterward, the latter half of the second half was troublesome for New York City FC.  Players began to tire, and a surprising giveaway by Mackay-Steven led to a Brandon Vázquez goal.  And then Cincinnati’s playing changed.

They controlled the possession for the remainder of the game and went from having just three shots in the first half to 11 in the second half.

The Pigeons had one too many giveaways and looked weary.  The Orange and Blue looked ready to pounce and get their second, but fortunately, Sean Johnson and the defense kept them from getting that goal.  The team was able to hold on and continue their unbeaten streak.

Regrettably, the match was mostly overshadowed by the loss of Maxi Moralez.  During an attacking moment in the 23rd minute, Moralez was kneed in the leg by Caleb Stanko, bringing him down unintentionally.  Nothing was thought of it at the time, but after a few minutes of play, Moralez was noticeably limping.  He then kicked out the ball in the 26th minute before falling to the ground, grabbing the back of his right knee.

Unfortunately, the Argentine could not continue and had to be subbed off in the 30th minute.  While the seriousness of the injury is not known, the loss of Moralez before halftime is concerning.

Currently, according to NYCFC radio analyst Glenn Crooks, Moralez will have a scan on his knee tomorrow.  Head coach Ronny Deila would not give any further details.  Yet, when Moralez left the pitch, the injury looked serious, and NYCFC would not want to lose the midfielder for any amount of time.

Yes, the Pigeons have held their own in the past without him, but there is no doubt they play better when he is on the pitch.  Moralez adds to the attack, creating chances, and taking his own.  He enhances the midfield, adding confidence to passing and possession.

Basically, the players around him just look better themselves, playing more concisely and compacted.  And of course, the Designated Player is the Assist King of New York City FC, having 50 in all competitions.

The concerns surrounding Moralez are just, and one cannot help but wonder about the severity of the injury.  Hopefully, it is not serious, but if it is, other players must step up.  So far Alex Ring has stepped up with the attacking player’s lack of scoring, but if Moralez is out for a time, then Ring might have to step back a little from the attack and focus on maintaining the possession in the midfield.

Therefore, players like Héber, Jesús Medina, and Alexandru Mitriță must do better in the attacking third and score.  Furthermore, midfielders must step up to keep the midfield compacted.  The players will have to try and recreate what they have when Moralez is on the pitch, which will be a tremendous challenge.

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In the end, a win is a win, and New York City FC got their three points.  But losing Maxi Moralez will be a blow for the Pigeons.  Again, they can still play and win without him, but the Argentine is a difference-maker.  The team is obviously a stronger side when he plays, and whether he is available could impact NYCFC in the standings.  Until there are answers on his status, fans can only keep their fingers crossed that the injury is not as dire as it seems.