With All-Star Alexander Ring, assist-machine Maxi Moralez, and newcomer Keaton Parks on their roster, it looks New York City FC will put themselves in the list of the top five best midfield of the MLS again this upcoming season.
Who needs a Number 9 when you have a midfield like New York City FC’s.
NYCFC still doesn’t have a true center forward in their roster, but the club unarguably has one of the best midfields in the MLS. Creativity, goal-passes, work ethic, tackles, goals—you name it, New York’s defense has it all.
The potential starters of Domenec Torrent’s foreseeable three-men midfield are Maxi Moralez, Keaton Parks, and Alexander Ring.
Moralez was arguably one of the best playmakers in the MLS last season. The Argentine tallied the third most assists in the MLS, sending his teammates on goal 16 times in 32 games. He also netted eight goals during the regular season and one in the playoffs, which placed him in the third spot of the team’s top scorers list. The 31-year-old has the precious ability to shoot well consistently with his right and his left foot.
Outside of his goals and assists, Moralez dictated the tempo of NYCFC’s matches last year with his passes in the middle of the pitch at a level that was worthy of praise. The former Atalanta player’s tremendous soccer IQ was what enabled him to be the handy pivot-man he was for NY last season.
“He’s a very intelligent player,” former NYCFC winger Tommy McNamara told NY Post reporter Kyle Schitzer about Moralez. “He gets into good spots, knows what he’s going to do with the ball before it [gets to him].”
Despite the playmaker’s stellar 2018 season, he didn’t make the all-star team. Moralez’s former teammate Rodney Wallace thinks he deserves more recognition.
“He’s still underrated in my eyes,” Wallace told MLSsoccer.com. “He doesn’t get as much buzz as other players, but he’s [maybe putting in] more work than a lot of the players who get the shine. For me, he’s a player who should be considered for MVP where he is right now and where we know he can take us.”
One of Moralez’s weaknesses is his size. The midfielder is only 5-foot-3, but he does make up for his size with his high soccer IQ.
As mentioned the former Liga MX player didn’t make the All-Star team last year but one of his fellow midfielders did, Alexander Ring. Ring’s tenacity in the midfield was one of the reasons why he earned his first MLS All-Star selection last year.
A tireless worker with a robust standing tackle, the Finland native won the ball countless amount of times deep in The Pigeons’ midfield before starting the attack with a forward pass.
However, the midfielder didn’t rack a single assist last year hence his weakness is his decision making in the attacking third. As for goals, he found the net twice in 33 matches.
Ring is quickly up climbing NYCFC’s ladder. He was the club Newcomer of the Year in 2017, was named co-captained the following season, and was selected as captain for this upcoming campaign on Thursday.
“I’m immensely proud to be the captain of this team and of this club, it’s an honor,” Ring told the club’s website. “You have a certain responsibility for the team. It’s your job to rally up the troops and get them ready for the games.”
The third possible man in The Boys in Blue’s midfield, Parks, only joined the team on Jan. 19 on loan from Benfica. Parks adds youth to NYC’s midfield. The American is only 21 years of age when Ring is 27 and Moralez, 31.[membership level="0"]
Benfica signed the youngster on July 2017 but he was only able to break into the first team four times and never scored or assisted a goal for them. Parks mostly played for the Portuguese side’s B-team.
In his matches with Benfica’s second side, Parks appeared to be more all-around than Ring and Moralez. The 21-year-old is able to find his teammates from long range, can make the final pass and has a decent looking shot. Nevertheless, the Texas native only netted seven goals for Benfica’s B-team in 42 matches.
Since this upcoming season will be Parks’ first year with the club and he isn’t that experienced the former Varzim player could need some time to gel with the team but the talent is surely there.
Four other young midfielders will be battling to be the third man in Torrent’s midfield. Ebenezer Ofori is the first in line. The 23-year-old played in 23 games with NYCFC last season but only scored once and didn’t register any assists. Ofori is more of a defensive midfielder yet does have the ball control and agility to play next to Moralez.
NYCFC’s three other midfielders are Juan Pablo Torres, a 19-year-old who notably scored four goals in seven games with U.S.A. U-20 team and played two professional matches in Belgium; teenagers James Sands and Justin Haak, 24-year-old Daniel Bedoya and former Orlando City player Tony Rocha.