Frank Lampard is a futbol veteran who has seen and been through almost every scenario. But what the Englishman has endured during his second season in the Bronx is unique even to him.
New York City FC has seen a rejuvenation from Lampard, who just a few weeks ago was lambasted by the City fandom and deemed a poor designation signee.
But since his early struggles, Lampard, a former Chelsea and Manchester City FC star, has seen his profile rise. He’s gone from a zero to a hero in the minds of the City faithful, and it’s been capped by his stellar performance on Sunday when he netted the franchise’s first-ever hat trick during a 5-1 thrashing of the Colorado Rapids (10-3-8, 38 points).
It should be noted that City isn’t particularly good at home, as their Yankee Stadium record is 4-3-5, compared to league best road mark of 6-4-1. But the way they handled one of the league’s premier teams should put everyone on notice. The effort wasn’t just monumental in allowing NYCFC (10-7-6, 36 points) to stay atop the Eastern Conference, four points ahead of the New York Red Bulls (9-9-4), but it also sent a message to the league that the 38-year old still has lots in the tank – and that the squad can win shorthanded.
The win was heartening as it showed they can bounce back from defeat following its 4-1 loss to the Red Bulls on July 24. And it also showed that City can still score big despite the absence of the league-leading goal scorer David Villa, who was suspended due to yellow card accumulation.
Lampard, who now has eight goals on the season – all of which have come in the last nine games — was proud to know that his performance was arguably the best in the franchise’s brief two-year history. He reasoned that he knows how off his game was earlier in the season, but is appreciative of his recent stretch.
“I know it is a very short history, but it’s a great accolade for me as a person,” he said of his triple. “I’m very happy when I’m playing well [and] feeling good … obviously I can score goals, [and] I’ve managed to do it since I’ve been fit.”
Being fit is the one caveat that detractors failed to acknowledge, as Lampard is finally healthy. A major reason for his early slump was due to the calf malady that nagged him. But since getting real playing time, and coupled with the playmaking skills of 19-year old Jack Harrison, Lampard has been as valuable as any City member.
Harrison, who’s taken the league by storm over the last month, has been thrilled to be taken under Lampard’s wing. He assisted on one of the veteran’s goals on Sunday and has marveled at the way he’s bounced back from injury.
Harrison should know, considering he also dealt with a fractured pelvic bone that stunted his arrival.
“He’s a true leader. And he showed that as our captain,” Harrison said of Lampard, who was designated team captain by manager Patrick Vieira prior to the Rapids match, due to Villa’s absence. “He’s been a key part our success as a team. He’s also been a great mentor to me and to see him doing so well, now that he’s scoring goals, it’s a big accomplishment. I hope it continues.”
City and its rabid “Third Rail” fanbase also hope it continues, as it finally seems as if Lampard is no longer the weak link among the high-priced Designated Players.
-The win over the Rapids was no small feat, as Colorado is one of the better teams in the league and would be leading the Eastern Conference. The Rapids saw its club record 15-game unbeaten streak come to a screeching halt in the Bronx.