(Frank Lampard entering the game on Saturday at Yankee Stadium – Photo courtesy of NYC FC)
English soccer legend Frank Lampard made his long-awaited debut with New York City Football Club on Saturday afternoon in their 3-2 loss to the Montreal Impact.
Lampard committed to join NYC FC in the summer of 2014 as the club’s first big signing. It was only the beginning of intrigue as to what was really behind the deal. In August, it was announced that Lampard would play for NYC FC parent club Manchester City to ostensibly keep him in shape for the NYC FC season, set to begin this past March.
At Manchester City, Lampard thrived in the early stages of the season. The most emotional moment came when he notched an equalizer late in a game at Chelsea in a game in late September. He declined to celebrate out of respect for his former club and the fans, some of whom booed him as he entered the game in the second half, gave him a rousing ovation.
After the Chelsea game, Manchester City Manager Manuel Pelllegrini made it clear he wanted Lampard to stay past his transfer deal was up in January and stay there for the full season, which would go until May. It was obvious that his time with Manchester City was more valuable than being ready for the NYC FC season opener in March. It then was revealed that Lampard’s contract was with Manchester City and not NYC FC, so by this point it was obvious that this was a ruse to get Lampard to Man City without bringing him directly over from bitter rival Chelsea.
The shame of Man City keeping Lampard for the full season was how little he was used after January 1st, and only saw significant time in the final few games when Man City’s title hopes were gone. He scored six goals in 32 appearances this past season.
He was all set to make his NYC FC debut on July 12th against Toronto, but that was derailed when he suffered a serious calf injury. That would also keep him out of their subsequent matches at New England on July 19th and against Orlando City on July 26th.
On Saturday, Lampard entered in the 69th minute right after David Villa scored on a penalty kick to make it 2-1 Montreal at the time.
On entering at that juncture, Lampard said, “It was a difficult moment to come in. It would’ve been better to come in and enjoy your 20 minutes rather than trying to make things happen so quickly.”
Lampard received a huge ovation from the crowd when he went in, and he said of that, “Every team and club I’ve been with, I think every player, if they’re honest, they want to feel the crowd and hear the crowd supporting them. I saw it in the last game (on July 26th) in particular, it was a fantastic atmosphere. Andrea Pirlo came on and got an amazing reception. The fans did the same for me as well. It’s up to me now to repay that by playing well.”
In his 20 minutes of action, Lampard looked rusty and most of his passes had little velocity and were mostly picked off by Montreal defenders. He played mostly around the center circle and did not enter Montreal territory at all.
Lampard said of how it felt to finally get out there for NYC FC, “Obviously good, it’s a fantastic stadium. I’ve been watching the games here, I’ve been in the city for more than a month, so I’m feeling excited about it, but also frustrated to not contribute. It was a big moment for me to play, but I just want to play more now. It’s frustrating to play a game that we end up losing and not quite feeling right and it’s up to me to get right in the meantime now and then, as a team, it’s up to us to get it right and win games.”
Lampard said of his outing, “Came out good, obviously a disappointing result. It would have been nice to come on, the team winning. I haven’t trained much, but it was good to get out on the pitch, make my debut, but you always want to get the win, so that takes the luster off it”
On his fitness and the calf injury, Lampard said, “I’ve only trained a couple days with the team, I’ve been out for a few weeks now with it (calf injury) since I had one week of training and obviously the injury in training, so I’m short. This was just trying get some minutes on the pitch, that’s why it was difficult to come on in a difficult situation with the team down and wanting to score goals and win the game. It’s important for me personally now to get my fitness up and get it completely right so I can give everything.”
NYC FC gave up at least three goals for the third time in the last four games. On that, Lampard said, “If we keep conceding goals at home in the threes and fours, it’s going to be hard to win.”