There was a time, not too long ago, when Lampard was being discussed as the worst DP signing of all time in MLS. Yes it seems like ages ago when Lampard was getting set to take on some Euro 2016 chit chat for the BBC network. And with that news there was much consternation set ablaze across the internet. We were regaled with such tweets as these:
Updated worst signings in MLS history: 1) Frank Lampard, 2) Rafa Marquez.— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) April 27, 2016
And to be honest it was hard to argue with any of these takes before the last two months. Because once again this season, Lampard was unavailable for most of the first half of the season, albeit for entirely different reasons. Dating back to the preseason this February, the club reported that Lampard was dealing with a calf strain that they were constantly hoping would feel better any day now. For many fans, myself included, we began to wonder, “If he’s taking this long to come back from a calf strain, maybe he needs to call it quits.” But, after months of waiting, Lampard finally made his return to the lineup, making a sub appearance versus the Red Bulls in the game that shall not be mentioned any longer. That appearance went as expected, as Lampard was welcomed with boisterous booing by the New York City fanbase.
New York City FC, for it’s part, put together a video montage to let us know (after the fact of course) how hard it was for Lampard to return to the pitch. The injury he suffered was probably much more severe than the club let on and if you watch the video it’s pretty clear Lampard wasn’t exactly taking it easy for the first half of the season, EURO 2016 commentating aside. But not knowing that information beforehand, and hearing he was going to commentating for the European championship made many fans feel like he was not really committed to the NYCFC cause and committed to play in MLS. As if his mind and heart were elsewhere while he collected a paycheck. A very, very handsome paycheck. But then something unexpected happened: Lampard started to play in games. And he he started to play very well.
For all the back and forth regarding Dank Frank, one thing everyone could agree on is that Frank brings the ability to score goals. And boy, has he ever brought that to in his return this season. So far Lampard has played in 11 games for New York City FC, with 8 starts. And he has scored 8 goals in that span, all coming in games he started. That’s right folks: Lampard has 8 goals in 8 starts for your Boys in Blue. That hell razing pace has him tied with players like Didier Drogba and Chris Pontius, and just one goal behind players like Diego Valeri and Ignacio Piatti. And with far fewer minutes played so far this season. He’s also averaging 0.7 key passes per game, with a pass succession of 77%, according to WhoScored.com.
Those numbers help paint a small portion of the effect Lampard has had since his insertion to the starting lineup. His presence has had added bonuses to other players as well. He’s given Tommy McNamara an extra target in the box to do things like this:
As comical as the one off his knee may be, it still comes from the fact that Lampard simply has this innate ability to put himself in the right place at the right time when it comes to scoring goals. It’s no surprise that almost all of his goals so far have come from work he’s done inside the box. His hat-trick last Saturday against the Rapids being no exception to that rule:
Lampard has lived up to his DP status in the last two months. He’s come in looking to help ease the load of Villa in the scoring department, and has solidified Vieira’s possession based style he’s been seeking to achieve all season long. Lampard has returned to the starting XI, not as someone who’s simply looking to play out the string or collect a paycheck, but as a man who has something to prove. Someone hungry to prove the doubters wrong. Someone looking to do something great with New York City FC. That can only mean good things for the club and the fans.
In New York City, things are not handed to anyone. It’s no different with it’s sports teams. We boo anyone who’s not performing to where we expect them, and we cheer everyone who works hard and brings success to the city. The same is proving true for Frank Lampard. He saw the worst of it here in the Bronx: the booing, the tifos, the constant calling for the team to find a better Designated Player. Maybe it’s not what he expected when he first signed on with the club. Otherwise, why even bother trying that Manchester City debacle that happened last year. But, he learned the hard way fans here will not except having players who are not giving them their all. And you know what? He’s answered the call. He’s accepted that he needs to prove himself to win over the New York fans, and he’s done just that.
We all have our differing feelings when it comes to Frank Lampard. But no one can deny he’s now bringing to the table everything we had hoped he would. New York City FC is having a season far better than anyone could’ve predicted and has become one of the most dangerous attacks in Major League Soccer this season, leading the league in Goals Scored up to this point. The Pigeons are also the only team to sport winning records both on the road and at home. Lampard has played a big part on both of these fronts, with 8 goals being evenly distributed so far with 4 at home and 4 on the road. His 8 goals put him clearly at second on the team in goal scoring, only trailing the Captain, David Villa himself.
It’s been a long road with Frank, and not the road many fans wanted when he was first announced as one New York City’s Designated Players. But, you know what they say: