David Villa is the top gunner on New York City FC and is leading MLS in goals with 13. But if City is to continue its torrid stretch, it is going to need continued help from a surging duo – Frank Lampard and Jack Harrison.
City (8-6-6, 33 points) has been on a splendid pace lately, winning five of their last six matches, including a franchise-best four-game winning streak.
It’s no coincidence that the streak coincided with the arrival of Harrison to the regular rotation and the resurgence of Lampard, who endured a nasty slump.
Lampard, a Brit who along with Villa and Andrea Pirlo is one of the high-priced designated European stars, endured a season-opening slump that made many City fans wish they could return to sender.
His second-half goal in NYCFC’s recent 3-1 win over the Montreal Impact, though, was his fifth strike in his past six games, as City has now captured a league-leading sixth road triumph of this season.
Harrison got his goal late in first-half stoppage time. It was his third tally in just seven starts.
Manager Patrick Vieira has been thrilled with the play of both his sterling 19-year old rookie and the embattled leader, but noted that as well as City has been playing of late, there’s still plenty more on which to improve.
“I still believe there are some parts of the game where we really need to improve,” Vieira said, even admitting that Harrison, the former Manchester United academy star still gives away the ball more than he’d prefer. “We are more solid as a team, and I’m really pleased with where we are at the moment. But we are not perfect yet.”
Not perfect by a long shot, but the drastic turnaround has been striking. This is the same squad that couldn’t buy a win just a month ago – whether it was in MLS play or the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup action, where they were bested by the North American Soccer League’s New York Cosmos.
The hot streak comes at a very important time for NYCFC, as they prepare to face their cross-river rivals New York Red Bulls (8-9-4, 28 points), July 24, in Harrison, New Jersey. City has been a member of MLS for only two seasons, and during that time, the first four meetings between these two franchises were all Red Bulls – including a demoralizing 7-0 win at Yankee Stadium, May 21, which tied the league mark for most lopsided victory. City finally exacted some revenge – and earned its first-ever win over the Red Bulls – with a 2-0 tally, July 3.
Harrison led the way in that match with a goal and an assist – with the score coming just eight minutes into the contest. Sidelined by injury for most of the season’s early stages, the rookie missed that embarrassing loss to the Red Bulls. But since healing and becoming a larger cog in the City’s machine, Harrison has been a revelation.
His wisdom also belies his youth, as he knows this recent tear can end any time and could put NYCFC right back to where they were just a month ago, looking up at the standings.
“I think we're starting to come together more as a team now and it's showing in the way we play,” Harrison said. “I think it's important to just keep going. Just don't stop now and keep going forward from here. [Montreal] was a good win. They’re a good side. But we need to continue to work hard.”
NYCFC will need him, Lampard, and the rest of the big-name stars to stay with this current pace if they’re to put further distance between them and their red rivals.
- Despite his scorching play as of late, Lampard was left off the MLS’s All-Star roster. A team of MLS all stars are announced every year to face a Premier League team, and this year it’ll be Arsenal. Villa and Pirlo, however, have made the roster.
- The Philadelphia Union, which has played one fewer game than City, trails the Bronx club by just three points in the Eastern Conference.