Maxi Moralez found himself at home with the students at P.S. 82. (Photo courtesy of NYC FC)
By Michael Lewis
Front Row Soccer Editor
NEW YORK — Maxi Moralez has no delusions are grandeur.
He knows the pecking order of players on New York City FC.
He realizes he will play and be willing to play third fiddle as a Designated Player on New York City FC and that’s fine with the Major League Soccer team’s new acquisition.
“I calculate it that all the eyes actually will be on David [Villa] and [Andrea] Pirlo,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “But I take it with a lot of responsibility to be the third Designated Player with the team. I want to get onto the field to show my confidence and show why the club gave me the opportunity. The club is very young. I want to help to able to win ultimately.”
For the first time since signing with the third-year expansion team Feb. 15, Moralez met the media before a special training session with the students at P.S. 82 in East Harlem.
He made a good impression on his first official off-the-field duty with the club, shaking every media members’ hand before taking questions in Spanish and English.
Moralez, who celebrated his 30th birthday Monday, did not promise the world.
“I’m a player with a lot of professionalism as I have shown throughout my career,” he said. “I always give my best whether it’s during training or during games. I’m coming here to give everything I have. To win is the ultimate goal.”
With two preseason games under his belt and with the season opener at Orlando City SC looming Sunday, Moralez said he has adapted well to the team and Villa, the 2016 MLS MVP.
“It’s been very good,” he said. “I only came here two weeks ago and I have had a chance to play two friendlies with him on the field. And from the very first moment that I came he gave me a good welcome as did everyone else on the team. Everyone has been great. I want to thank them for the last two weeks.”
Learning English is a high priority for the 5-3, 115-lb midfielder so very little will be lost in translation on or off the field.
“Thee language is very fundamental in order to be able to communicate with the team but when I’m on the field with the position I am able to do what [head coach Patrick] Vieira wants,” he said. “I actually speak Italian with him so I’m able to focus on what my position entails.”
When asked where he would like to play, Moralez tried to be diplomatic as he quickly replied, “Call the trainer.”
The media members laughed.
Then Moralez got serious.
He said that he usually has played in the center or on the left side of midfield and reminded those assembled that he played with Alexander Ring and Pirlo on that platoon.
“That’s not the position I usually play,” he said. “I like to come from the back and that can definitely help the team. I don’t know where exactly where I will be during the season.”
Moralez admitted he “didn’t know very much” about MLS before he joined City.
“I knew very little,” he said. “Having played in Mexico I was able to play some games. The league is very well known, especially the club with having David and Pirlo. Obviously, the publicity around the club makes them very well known. Everyone around the world knows about the league and talks about it because its growing so much and rapidly.”
Only moments before he hit the gymnasium floor to play some indoor soccer with some two dozen children, Moralez said reaching out in the community was not only important for the team, but for himself as well.
“It’s a responsibility for both us to explain the club and to fight to get to you are as a kid,” he said. “It is a big responsibility to them.”
Later Tuesday in a NYC FC press release, Moralez said: “I am proud that my new Club planned for my first NYC event to be at a school. It is important for me to get to know and give back to my new community and it is clear that NYC FC is deeply committed to working with the communities of New York.”
Moralez’s passion for the beautiful game? Heck, that was inbred. Like many Argentineans, he was born into it.
“I came from a football family, like any good Argentinian,” he said. “It’s part of our lives. My dad really implemented it in me. Football got me on a good path in my life, got me out of bad friendships and got me the opportunity to where I am. Football gave me [the opportunity] to see many places throughout the world. It’s helped me family, too. They’re really happy to be here.”