Fans and media alike dubbed Frank Lampard a bust after missing the opening two-and-a-half months of the MLS season. Some even called the English legend the biggest flop in the league’s 20-year history.
Now, that tone has changed drastically around the Bronx.
The 36-year-old has not only broken into New York City FC’s’ starting XI but provided the Eastern Conference leaders with another element in the team’s already dangerous attack.
Since returning to the field this season, NYCFC is 5-3-2 in the eight matches Lampard has played a role. Furthermore, after starting the last five matches for Patrick Vieira’s side, Lampard notched four goals and added an assist, boosting the midfielder to second on the team in finishes.
The former Chelsea midfielder has already surpassed his scoring total of a season ago, when Lampard netted three goals in 10 MLS appearances.
Questions surrounding Lampard throughout the early portion of the season were largely related to the veteran’s pricy contract and injury woes more than anything, but his play on the field was never really in doubt.
Lampard’s return to the field has not only improved his image, but offered leading striker David Villa a legitimate option in the attacking third. During NYCFC’s brief time in MLS, the squad’s biggest struggles have occurred when Villa isn’t firing on all cylinders. However, the emergence of Lampard and rookie sensation Jack Harrison has provided NYCFC with depth in front of net.
In 2015, Villa was involved in 26 out of NYCFC’s 48 goals (includes goals and assists), contributing over 54 percent of the team’s goalscoring output. The Spaniard ranked second in MLS in that category, only behind Toronto FC attacker Sebastian Giovinco, who scored and assisted on 38 of TFC’s 58 finishes.
Dating back to last season, NYCFC has sought consistent options up top, with players like Patrick Mullins, Mix Diskerud and Khiry Shelton failing to make a consistent impact. That inadequacy forced Villa to become the side’s creator.
Every team would be gracious to have an attacking force like Villa or Giovinco, however, one player doesn’t determine a team’s success; at least in most cases they don’t. MLS has proven to be a league that isn’t necessarily star driven, but one that requires teams to possess depth and more importantly chemistry.
While Lampard isn’t as flashy or dynamic as players like Villa or Harrison, the midfielder does all the intangibles properly, which has been on display during NYCFC’s recent rise in the East. Not only does Lampard offer goals due to his timely positioning but he is also an efficient distributor, which has opened up play for the team’s midfield.Follow @MattReedFutbol