Alex Ring’s exit from NYCFC this offseason left a major hole in the Eastern Conference club’s midfield, but Ronny Deila now has an experienced and aggressive player to fill the gap in 2021.
Alfredo Morales signed with NYCFC on Wednesday from 2. Bundesliga club Fortuna Dusseldorf, becoming the latest American player to switch Europe for MLS. Morales was still in the mix in the Dusseldorf squad this season, but decided to give MLS a go and is now eager to jump right into the plans in the Bronx this month.
“I had really good conversations with [NYCFC sporting director] David Lee and for me it was a good timing because as a player, my age – not only as a soccer player, also as a person – I always wanted to come to the US and experience life in the US, especially with my wife and my kids,” Morales said in a conference call.
“This was very important for me. I was talking to my wife and we wanted to do it from the first day. It’s a big move, especially when you have kids and my kids, they’re German basically. They don’t speak English, they just know the basic stuff like how are you, strawberry and cat and cow and dog and whatever. It’s really exciting and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Morales, 30, comes into the fold at NYCFC off the back of over 10 years and over 240 first team appearances playing in Germany’s top two divisions. The versatile and veteran midfielder signed a contract through the 2023 season, which also comes with a club option for 2024.
A former U.S. Men’s National Team player, Morales can be a leader for NYCFC this season as it tries to replace Ring’s production and abilities in the heart of midfield. Morales’ ability to play in the No. 8 position or even the No. 6, gives other NYCFC midfielders such as Maxi Morales, Jesus Medina, and James Sands the chance to play even further upfield in attack.
Morales has only been with the club for a few days, but already has high praise for the upcoming MLS season.
“We have a great team, really – I experienced it in the last two training sessions over the last two days,” Morales said. “They’re young, they can improve and they will improve, but it’s good. I like the competition in training, it’s really intense and it’s hard but this is what I do, what I like.”
“I love competition so I like it when there are a lot of players fighting for one or two spots. It just makes us better everybody individually. Like I said, I just want to help everybody. I’m really open. I will always try to talk to the younger guys also.”
NYCFC was a mixed bag in 2020, finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference before ultimately suffering a first round exit in the MLS Cup Playoffs to Orlando City. NYCFC was also eliminated from the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinals by eventual winners Tigres, losing 5-0 on aggregate over two legs.
Morales’ arrival will certainly give the club a spark as it tries to kick off its new season on a positive note. NYCFC begins the season on April 18th at D.C. United before matches against FC Cincinnati and the Philadelphia Union.
“It’s exciting to welcome in a player of Alfredo’s quality to NYCFC and he’s great addition to our midfield,” Deila said. “He’s played over 200 professional games in Germany and shown his quality at a top level. Alfredo will bring a tremendous, hard-working attitude into our squad and is fighter and competitor that will help us improve from day one.”
Morales hasn’t played a competitive match yet for NYCFC, but has already accepted the challenge of his new role.
“For me, it’s to give my intensity to the team, my physicality, my aggressiveness, my passion also,” Morales said. “I will do everything, I’m telling you, to win a game. This is what I want to bring.”
“Maybe I can light up the spark emotionally for the team to lead the team on this emotional basis. On the pitch, I can play everything. We talked about playing holding midfielder, more as a No. 8. I’m playing professional soccer for more than 10 years now, so I know all the stuff. I just need a job and I will do everything I can to do it.”