The MLS season is about to reach the middle of its regular stage and the clubs from both conferences are fighting for a place in the next Playoffs. One of them is New York City, which finished 5th in the general table of 2020 and is among the candidates to fight until the end and move on to the next stage.
In an exclusive interview for 90min, we spoke with Maximiliano Moralez, who is going through his fourth season at the New York club. We asked him about his current status in MLS, how he lives day-to-day in the United States, the myth of “being an easy league” and his goals for this season. In addition, the memory of his time at Atalanta, a Serie A club in Italy, which is, perhaps, in the best moment of its history.
In turn, the Argentine hitch highlighted his desire to return to Argentina, more precisely to Racing, the club that saw him born, and revived the remembered contest that he won with Vélez against the Huracán de Ángel Cappa, in 2009. Finally, He referred to the title of world champion with the U-20 of Argentina, in a team full of figures.
What is the goal you set yourself in New York City to face this season?
The goals are always what you want. First get to the Playoffs and then get to the last game, both in our area, which is the Eastern Conference, and the grand final, which is what really matters to us to crown what we prepare.
Is there pressure in the MLS Playoffs?
I carry competitiveness inside for being South American and Argentine, we don’t like to lose anything. The club has put together a team to compete and we handle the pressure. The experience I have helps me handle those kinds of games. We know we have a competitive team to win things.
Even so, qualifying for the Playoffs as high as possible does not guarantee you reach the final, because they are very difficult games because you can play as a visitor or at home.
How are the fans in terms of pressure with the players?
It is a young club, has seven years as a franchise in the MLS. The closest we got was two years ago, when we ranked first in our area, but normally you always get to the Playoffs. It is important to be able to reach the semi-final, because we have never made it. It is a club that demands, that wants to win; We know that it is not easy compared to other franchises.
You came to MLS four years ago. What differences do you notice since your arrival?
When I arrived, they incorporated very experienced footballers and two or three years ago they began to bring young people, who have a lot of projection and who usually went directly to Europe.
Now, the boys bet that they come through here, it is a league seen worldwide. Europe watches MLS a lot because it knows the potential it has and how the player can improve. The clubs bet big because they invest and it shows in the quality with which they live.
One thinks that it is an easy league, but Higuain said it: he thought he came to play with a cigarette in his mouth and it is costing him. It is the thought that the South American has, that it is a minor league, but being here I notice that it is not easy at all.
How do you see the arrival of young Argentine footballers to MLS?
It’s because of the growth the league has. The economy is a very important factor. Today it is very difficult for a European club to invest and those of the MLS try to take advantage of it. The case of Barco, who arrived very young, happened with Almirón, the Paraguayan, who is now in England.
It was my turn to go straight to Europe. In the past I had offers to come to MLS, but with the thought that we handle, I saw that it was a much smaller league. It was my fault, because you have to be here. Today it is totally different, it is very competitive, it helps to grow and improve. Here it is enjoyed, it is lived like a sport and it ends there, because it does not pass into everyday life. It is a growth for these young people: that if they have to make the leap, it does not cost them so much.
“Higuaín said it, he thought he was coming to play with a cigarette in his mouth and it is costing him. The South Americans think it is a smaller league but from here I guarantee that it is not. It is not easy at all.”
– Maxi Moralez
Does the life of the player change in the United States?
It is a very relaxed life, you can lead a normal life, like going out to eat with your family if you lose. It is something that in Argentina, and in South America, unfortunately cannot be done. Argentine players can have a life if they do well, if not, you have to stay locked in your house enduring a lot of criticism.
You don’t live that here, it ends when the game ends, it stays there. That is what makes us enjoy and for what I believe that many boys come here or those who play in large teams, who are saturated by pressure, by the media, by the people, by all that combo, which makes in the United States you can enjoy it.
In mid-2011, the down payment was transferred to Atalanta for a figure close to 7 million euros and a contract for five seasons. Although the Bergamo team did not live the present they have today, they managed to stay in the first category of Italian football. Moralez played 149 games and scored 20 goals during his stay in the A series.
What differences do you notice from your time in Atalanta to what it is today?
I had to arrive in the year they were promoted to Serie A. It was a process of saving themselves from relegation, because it is a fairly small club and they competed to stay. The years that I was there were great championships, finishing almost in the middle of the table, fighting for 8th place.
I think that the arrival of Gasperini, which was when I had to leave and the ‘Tank’ Denis as well, was a bet to be able to fight great things. With that and investing well, with fair players, three years ago they managed to play the Champions League without renowned footballers, but fairly well known. They managed to make a great team and with ‘Papu’ being the captain at the time, and now without him, they are doing incredible and very worthy things because it is not easy to stay in Italian football in the first five places.
“The Bergamo fans are like the Argentines and they already intend to continue qualifying for the Champions League.”
– Maxi Moralez
Can you stay in time as a great?
I think so, because with the structure it has, how it is managed and if it continues down that path, to invest, to sell well, it has very good lower divisions, it has a perfect combo. Staying is difficult, especially when you have a power of five or six giant teams worldwide. From what I know, that base and the ideology of staying in the Champions League will remain. The Bergamo fans are complicated like the Argentines and they already intend to continue qualifying for UCL.
‘Frasquito’ began his career in the Racing Club youth teams and made his debut in 2005. After his retirement as a player, “Cholo” Simeone became the coach of the first team and Moralez played a fundamental role in his scheme.
In mid-2007, he was transferred to FC Moscow, where he played for a year and returned to ‘The Academy’. These were difficult moments for the club, since they had to compete for promotion against Belgrano de Córdoba in the bid for relegation, but the midfielder was present and scored the goal with which the Avellaneda team remained in the first division.
What makes you see how Racing is at the moment having left the club?
Satisfaction because in my stage nothing of what is being lived was experienced now. In recent years he has won three championships and it is not easy. It has had competitive teams, with a line of play. That marks a lot the work of the managers, of the technical bodies that were at the time, the players that are. It’s a cute combo.
For one who came out, who plays a fan wherever he plays, it is always beautiful. This Racing only looks at things to improve and not to return to what we had to live, because it was not a pretty situation. Hopefully in the future I can reach the final stages of the Copa Libertadores, which is not easy.
In January 2009, Velez acquired the player’s file for a figure close to 2 million dollars, becoming a fundamental reinforcement for Ricardo Gareca’s team. In his first tournament, he scored the consecration goal against Ángel Cappa’s Hurricane, in a controversial final.
In 2011 he was fundamental during the first semester, in which he again achieved the Clausura and reached the semifinals of the Libertadores Cup, instance in which he ended up falling to Peñarol, runner-up in that edition.
In Vélez you had fun in the goal festivities with Santiago Silva and ‘Burrito’ Martínez. How did they think of them?
We had too much confidence in each other. At that moment, the ‘Tank’ would put her in with anything, the ‘Burrito’ uncooked it all and I accompanied. We knew that one of the three was getting it. Obviously the ‘Tank’ had more chances, because it was the one that defined.
Before the games, many times in the concentration or in the dressing room, we threw ideas and the one we liked the most we did. We even had two or three saved because we could score several goals. It was a terrible team, one of the best Argentina had in the last ten years. We had a very competitive team and we played anyone.
If there is a chance to return to Argentine football, would you like to return to Vélez or Racing?
They are two clubs for which I have a very great appreciation. Racing gave me the opportunity to become known in Argentine football, it supported me in the lower ranks, in the pension, it gave me a lot. Vélez allowed me to be champion twice, which is not easy and I spent three years in which I had incredible happiness.
I am close to retirement age and hopefully I have the chance to leave professional football where I started. I know that Racing fights important things, Vélez also and you have to be up to the task. When you put the balance and see where to finish your career, the family has a lot to do with it. Luckily, both of them have always opened the doors for me, so we will see who is useful at that time.
Phone for the ‘Magician’ Capria …
The ‘Magician’ was my partner, I spoke last year, I have a beautiful relationship.
In 2007, while he was playing for Racing and being one of the figures of the squad, he participated in the U-20 World Cup in Canada, in which Argentina got the title. Moralez started in a team full of figures, who ended up becoming stars worldwide, as was the case of Sergio Agüero.
If I name you Romero; Market, Fazio, Sigali, Insúa; Banega, Sánchez, Morlez; Zárate, Agüero and Piatti … what memories do you have of that team?
We had a great team. On the bench were Di María, ‘Papu’ Gómez. To be a world champion, even if it is U-20 is something wonderful. The experience of living a World Cup, beyond the category, is something unforgettable and even more so when you have to win it. It is something that I always remember because it marked me a lot. Something nice that touched me in my career and I will keep it forever. The race they all did was nice. They played in the best teams in the world, recognized worldwide.
You were a partner of ‘Kun’. How did you see his career and now his signing for Barcelona?
He has had an excellent career, especially what he did in Manchester. Hopefully I can repeat now at Barcelona. That World Cup marked the career of many and I myself am very happy with what I had to do.
Seeing yourself, do you envy your career?
Yes, I am happy with the career I did. I think it is not easy to spend almost five years in a football like Italian and have an important regularity. I would envy whoever made a career like that, I wouldn’t have to recriminate myself because I gave my last.