MONTREAL – Even when he isn't playing his best, Jack Harrison has proven to be a difference maker for New York City FC.
Harrison scored late in first-half stoppage time to give New York a two-goal lead, and Frank Lampard's second-half goal sealed a 3-1 win against the Montreal Impact at Stade Saputo Sunday.
Both Harrison and NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira were less than satisfied with performance as a whole, but Lampard noted the importance of the 19-year-old rookie's contributions to the team's recent success.
"As a winger, you won't always have the best game," Lampard said. "Sometimes the ball doesn't get to you enough or you can't get involved as much as you want, but when it does come you need to be a bit special and he's been a revelation for us in turning the corner and winning these last five out of six games because he's given us a real outlet of speed and ability on the ball."
David Villa scored his MLS-leading 13th goal after 35 minutes. Harrison, who made his seventh consecutive start, made it 2-0 when he hooked a shot inside the left post for his third goal.
"I think the understanding of the team is better, and that's helping to express his talent," Vieira said. "Today he scored a really important goal before halftime, and a fantastic goal, but when you analyze this game, I don't think that was his best performance and he has to keep working, and working really hard, because there are some aspects of his game that he needs to improve."
The win kept New York City (9-6-6) atop the Eastern Conference standings with 33 points from 21 games.
"It's an important win," Harrison said. "We knew that going into the game. We knew it was going to be a big game. They're a good side. They played well, they had a few chances that they probably should have put away. But we were fortunate and we worked hard and came out with a win, which was massive for us. I think we're starting to come together more as a team now and it's showing in the way we play. I think it's important to just keep going, just don't stop now and keep going forward from here."
While Lampard didn't want to overemphasize the importance of the victory, he pointed out that it was another step on the road to accomplishing NYCFC's ultimate goals for the season.
"I don't know about statement, but yes, people will recognize the difference from us last year," Lampard said. "We were struggling throughout the year and now we're playing with a different confidence. You know, we're playing from the back, playing good football, we're scoring lots of goals, so we need to concentrate on ourselves.
"We need to focus week in week out and try and amass the points that will get us into the playoffs because I think that's the minimum for us this year."