Maxi Moralez availablity for Monday night is still up in the air. (Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

Ronny Deila admits he doesn’t know if Maxi Moralez will be able to play against Columbus Crew SC at Red Bull Arena Monday at 7 p.m.

“It’s not 100 percent,” the New York City FC coach said Sunday. “We don’t know yet.”

It has been a recurring theme this summer.

The 2019 MLS Best XI midfielder has been hampered by a calf injury that kept him out of Thursday’s Hudson River Derby and several injuries that has limited his playing time and effectiveness since the MLS is Back Tournament.

Like everyone – his staff, players and fans – Deila wants the Argentine standout back as soon as possible given City’s abysmal 1-6 start and two goals, but he also has realized it is a delicate balance of bringing back Moralez too soon ruining him and the team’s chances to rebound for the rest of the MLS regular season.

“That’s a process going on all the time,” Deila said on a Zoom conference call. “And if we had knew, we would, of course, have done something a long, long time ago. We have assessed everything now. We are doing the things we think is right to do.

“When he steps on the pitch, we want him to stay over time, because that is a tough thing as well. When he comes on, goes off comes on again, off, doesn’t start next game. As you say, he is important player for us.”

Deila noted the team has played different with Moralez in the lineup. Let’s face it, he might be “only” 5-3 and ll5 lbs., but Moralez packs more punch in his weight than any other player in the league. He is a dynamo that puts the NYCFC into high gear with pin-point passes, occasional goals and extra energy.

“So to have consistency when he’s back is going to be important,” Deila said. “Hopefully that’s already tomorrow. But the most important [thing] is that when it that starts that he can keep on playing and playing.”

The 33-year-old Moralez was listed as questionable for NYCFC’s 1-0 loss at the Red Bulls Thursday but did not dress for the match.

Moralez enjoyed a career season last year, becoming only the third players in MLS history to reach 20 assists, while scoring seven goals. During his four-season tenure with the club, Moralez has accumulated 20 goals and 45 assists in 94 appearances.

This season he has been limited to four games – three starts. He hasn’t recorded a point yet.

In other injury updates, Deila said that midfielder-forward Ismael Tajouri-Shradi (hamstring) has begun training with the team, but he isn’t ready to play.

“The game tomorrow is coming too quick,” he said.