MLS had been a disastrous experience for Frank Lampard, but his recent run with NYC FC is slowly turning jeers into cheers.
Back on Apr. 28, I put together a list of “10 international signings that flopped” in MLS. It included some of the most disappointing players to ever set foot in an MLS stadium, including the likes of Nery Castillo, Kris Boyd and Rafa Márquez.
As bad as those players were in MLS, none of them were worthy of my top choice as the worst one. That dubious honor belonged to former Chelsea legend Frank Lampard, who joined New York City FC last season at 37 years of age and had been a complete waste.
I started my now-ridiculous Lampard rant with the line “this one might be a little premature…” and that turned out to be the only thing I got right.
Since his return last month after finally recovering from a pesky calf strain, Lampard has been unstoppable as a starter for NYC FC. He has scored four goals in his last five games and set up an assist in the New York Derby against the Red Bulls in the beginning of the month. Though that run, New York City have won four out of their last five games and are now at the top of the Eastern Conference with 30 points (Philadelphia Union have 29 points with a game in hand).
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Lampard, who turned 38 on June 20, has been instrumental in New York’s rise to the top, a development that has been silencing critics (myself included) along the way. The form he has shown in the last month is a stark contrast to what he had offered earlier on. He was booed by his own fans when he came on as a substitute in May against the Red Bulls, when they embarrassingly lost 7-0 at home. It was his season debut after being sidelined by injury.
The former England midfielder came on as a substitute in the following two games, playing 13 minutes in the 2-2 draw against Kaká’s Orlando City and 16 minutes in a 3-2 home loss against Real Salt Lake. Despite seeing some action, things weren’t looking better for Lampard. That was, of course, until he turned it all around.
He scored his first goal of the season in his first start for NYC FC, which turned out to be a thrilling 3-2 win against Philadelphia Union. He then powered New York past the Seattle Sounders, the Red Bulls and the New England Revolution before falling to Sporting Kansas City last Sunday.
New York City FC, who had been heavily criticized at the start of the season, are finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel after a tumultuous offseason that saw them part ways with beloved American coach Jason Kreis. Now at the top of the East, they have the league’s leading goalscorer in David Villa and are also seeing more class from veteran maestro Andrea Pirlo.
With Lampard finally hitting his stride, New York City FC can now focus on reaching the MLS playoffs for the first time in their short history. The next test for Lampard and his teammates will be against someone the Englishman knows very well: Didier Drogba.
NYC FC face Montreal Impact on Sunday, with Drogba recently announcing that he’ll take part in that game after recovering from a thigh injury. It will be the first time Lampard and Drogba face each other as opponents after winning three EPL titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and a Champions League together with Chelsea.