Coming off of a big loss at the Red Bulls a week ago, NYCFC had a near-perfect response Saturday against the Colorado Rapids.
Since his much delayed debut last August, NYCFC midfielder Frank Lampard was seen as one of the bigger signing busts in recent MLS history.
With NYCFC needing a win, and a strong response after their lackluster 4-1 loss at the Red Bulls last Sunday, Lampard took center stage on Saturday and silenced his critics, scoring NYCFC’s first-ever hat trick in the Pigeons’ dominant 5-1 win over the Colorado Rapids on a rainy Saturday in the Bronx.
Lampard’s hat-trick gives him eight goals in the last seven matches. Since June 18, he’s scored more goals than the rest of MLS.
“[I’m] really happy, I didn’t realize that,” Lampard said after the match. “I know it’s a very short history but it’s a great accolade for me as a person.
“I’m very happy and when I’m playing well, feeling good, obviously I can score goals, I’ve managed to do since I’ve been fit. To the three goals, personally feel great, but for the team more importantly, twice now in recent weeks, we lost a game and come straight back the next week and won. And that’s what team who wants to stay on top of the table must do.”
With four regulars out, including captain David Villa, Lampard wore NYCFC’s captain’s armband for the first time this season.
“We are about a squad a through the season it’s not always easy for players who are not playing regularly to understand,” he said about getting a key win without four of their starters.
“But when you have players who come in today like Tony Taylor up front comes in and scores and when you are bringing in a new signing straight in off the plane almost to come and play, I think it shows the depth, it shows unity and more than anything it shows a lot of those individuals that are not playing but are keeping fit.”
He scored the opening goal in the 28th minute, getting Tim Howard to overcommit to Diego Martinez and Tommy McNamara on his right side. The ball was tipped by McNamara to the far post where Lampard tipped in in past Howard.
Taylor made it 2-0 NYCFC just before the break, winning a ball just outside of Colorado’s six-yard box.
Lampard’s second goal came on a counter by the Pigeons and on an assist by rookie Jack Harrison, who led the charge. Harrison stopped just inside Colorado’s 18 and dished the ball to Lampard, who hit a bender just to the left of Howard, pushing NYCFC’s lead to 4-0.
The third goal came on a penalty kick that Harrison earned in the 84th minute. Lampard drilled it to Howard’s left to put NYCFC up 5-0. Lampard was just the third player to score on a penalty kick for NYCFC in their brief history, joining Villa and the recently traded Patrick Mullins.
“I though he put in a good performance today,” Harrison said of Lampard’s big performance. “He showed true leadership out there as the captain. We needed him out here today and he’s a key part of our success as a team.”
The four-goal margin of victory is the largest in NYCFC’s short history and the Pigeons are now 3-1-1 in their last five home matches.
But the bigger story here is the big, decisive, dominant win particularly without Villa in the lineup. The club’s depth needed to step up and did so in a massive way that many wouldn’t have thought they would do.
“It was one of the most pleasing things from today’s game because for players like Tony, Diego, Jason and also Maxime Chanot, who only came two days ago and went out and did a really professional job out there,” assistant coach Christian Lattanzio, who took over for the suspended Patrick Vieira, said. “We are really pleased because these guys work really hard in training.
“It is easy sometimes to keep telling them to work hard because the opportunity will come. But then they do it constantly so we were really pleased, also credit to the other regulars that helped them out there as well. All around it was very pleasing to watch.”
The Pigeons become the first Eastern Conference team to reach the 10-win mark, a feat that could be shortly lived with a packed MLS schedule set for Sunday. But the more important thing here is that they keep themselves on top of the conference with a 10-7-6 record and 36 points in the table.
“It feels great,” defender Jason Hernandez said of NYCFC’s current success, “I think early on in the season we had our struggles at home so to come out the gate strong and establish ourselves early on in the game I felt was a big plus for us.”
Colorado was seen as one of the more surprisingly dominant teams in the league coming into the match. They rode a 15-match unbeaten streak, allowing just 14 goals through the season prior to Saturday’s match.