Maxi Moralez: “We need to all concentrate and be at 200 percent like we were at the last game, so that we can advance.” (Photo courtesy of MLS)

By Michael Lewis Editor

Will Maxi Moralez start or will he be a weapon off the bench?

That is one of the questions facing New York City FC as it puts its finishing touches for its quarterfinal confrontation against the Portland Timbers in the MLS Is Back Tournament Saturday at 10:30 p.m. ET.

There is no question that the talented midfield playmaker is the key to City’s success. But since he has been bothered by injuries, recently by a quad issue, how much time the Argentine will see on the field is anyone’s guess.

We were reminded how lethal the 33-year-old Moralez could be in NYCFC’s 3-1 victory over Toronto FC in the Round of 16 Sunday, coming off the bench in the first half and setting up the game-winner and adding an insurance tally before he had to leave the game.

“If Max is on the ground ready he starts the game and I think he will be that,” head coach Ronny Deila said during a Thursday conference call. He’s very very important player for us. But nobody’s good enough when you’re 90 percent. So, we need to get Maxi at 100. He was 100 percent when he came on. He was a big difference. I want him for 90 minutes. That’s of course, what we need.

“It’s not about his fitness, fitness is really good. It’s about more like get this injury Right. That’s the problem he has is have some stiffness in his quad, that’s coming and going it. We have to sort out.”

Moralez, who set a club record with 20 assists last season, wouldn’t make any predictions he would play, but said he was feeling better.

“You know the last game I started off the bench, which was the best decision because I wasn’t 100,” he said through an interpreter. “Ronnie made that decision and it was definitely the right one. But right now we have two days left until the next game. And my goal is to get to 100 percent because … Portland, who we’re playing, they’re very good. And everyone needs to be ready and be strong for the game. We know that we’re playing one of the best teams in MLS. They have a very strong starting 11. So we need to all concentrate and be at 200 percent like we were at the last game, so that we can advance.”

As good as he is, Moralez is only human and that means he isn’t necessarily a spring chicken anymore. He is 33-years-old  and as you age in any sport, in many cases it could take a lot longer for injuries to heal. It’s a fact of life.

“Injuries, you know, in general, they don’t have an age you can get injured at any age but obviously when you’re 30 or over, they’re more recurring,” Moralez said. “But you have to work hard to not get injured and unfortunately for me, I felt great going into the first game against the Union and that’s when I got injured.

“But you know this just happens is what this is what happens when you play in these games that are high intensity. It’s part of football. It’s obviously not great but it happens. But you get to know yourself and you know when to train … If I am at 100 percent I’ll start and, if not another player who’s more fit and ready we’ll, we’ll take my spot.”

And then Moralez will be ready to come in and give 100 percent off the bench. The way he and NYCFC are playing, it could be a win-win situation.