300 and counting, as Frank Lampard scores brace for NYCFC on landmark night

NEW YORK – Frank Lampard was presented with a special jersey, a ring and a proclamation from the New York City Mayor’s office calling it “Frank Lampard Day” for scoring 300 goals for club and country.

“I want to investigate that,” Lampard joked after the game. “I don’t know what that means. It was really unexpected and a real great touch. I certainly appreciate it on a personal level.”

And then the English legend went out and scored a late brace, including the stoppage-time winner, to lift New York City FC to a dramatic 3-2 win over D.C. United at Yankee Stadium on Thursday.

Hollywood ending? Maybe, maybe not. But what is certain is that NYCFC inched closer to securing a first-ever MLS Cup playoff berth with a massive three points.

“We are so close to the first objective of the club, to be in the playoffs,” said David Villa, who capitalized on a defensive gaffe to score his league-leading 17th goal of the season. “We are so close. Of course, we have another six finals and we need to play like it's six finals, but we’re very close.”

The win, the club’s fifth in a row at Yankee Stadium, moves NYCFC back atop the Eastern Conference, one point in front of idle Toronto FC. What’s perhaps more important is that they found a way to win a game in which they didn’t play their best soccer.

“It wasn’t a pretty game. I don’t think we played our best football, but sometimes its important to win when you don’t play well,” NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said. “I think tonight we showed a lot of character, a lot of desire, a lot of passion and we kept believing until the end.”

And what a wild ending it was. After Villa leveled, Lampard scored what appeared to be the winner five minutes from full time, but Lamar Neagle equalized in the first minute of stoppage time.

But on Frank Lampard Day, the 38-year-old from England wasn’t quite done yet. He received a pass from Khiry Shelton, who was so influential off the substitute’s bench, took a deft hesitated touch to avoid a sliding Jalen Robinson and scored with his left foot.

It was goal No. 302 in Lampard’s famed career and one he won’t soon forget.

“Last-minute winners are always the best ones. I don’t get bored of that. That’s what you work for,” Lampard said. “When I was injured early in the season and you slug away in the gym you dream of moments like that. That’s what inspires you to keep working. Thankfully I’ve had a few since I’ve been back, but that was the best one yet because it was so important for us to get that win.”