PURCHASE, N.Y. — Frank Lampard has gone through quite a transformation in his first full season in Major League Soccer.
From being booed during his 2016 debut when he came off the bench in a 7-0 drubbing by the New York Red Bulls to scoring the first hat trick in New York City FC history in a 5-1 pasting of the Colorado Rapids on Saturday, the public perception of the English icon has come full circle.
But NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira isn’t surprised by what he’s seen from the 38-year-old midfielder, who has quickly shed the “worst signing ever” label that some put on him earlier this season.
“He understands the game quicker than anybody else,” Vieira said. “His brain helps him get to the position where other people don’t even think about it and this is why he’s scoring goals. He smells the goals. He’s really dangerous inside the box. His finishing is fantastic.”
Lampard, who was named MLS Player of the Week on Tuesday, has said all along that when he’s healthy he can score goals — and no one in Major League Soccer has more since June 18. He has eight during that span and is a big reason why NYCFC sits atop the Eastern Conference table after having won six of the eight games he’s started this year.
But this isn’t even the best of Lampard yet, according to Vieira.
“I think there’s still more to come because he was out for quite a long time and didn’t have a preseason,” the NYCFC coach said. “In the last few weeks, few months, he’s been training every single day, didn’t miss any kind of training.”
Lampard’s first season in MLS in 2015 was hampered by injuries and he started his second year rehabbing a calf injury. He missed all of preseason and the first 12 games of the regular season.
Lampard continues, however, to do extra work with the medical staff on his calf to make sure he stays on the field.
“He’s got the experience and he knows his body better than myself and better than even the physios. He knows himself, he knows what he needs during the week,” Vieira said. “Of course, we do some collective work. He doesn’t miss any kind of training, but his extra work he’s doing with the physios, he’s doing it by himself and we give him the support he needs.”