PURCHASE, N.Y.—They finally made their season debuts in Saturday’s 7-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls, but midfielders Frank Lampard and Jack Harrison are still a long way from cracking the NYCFC starting lineup.
“It was important for them to get 20 minutes,” said NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira. “Of course I didn’t expect them to change the result of the game, but it was important for Frank to know the calf is fine, for Jack to find the sensation in the field. I was really pleased. That was the good, position of the aspect of the game.”
Lampard, sidelined since January with a calf injury, said the calf responded well in his first game action since the 2015 season finale against the New England Revolution on October 25.
“It felt really good,” Lampard said. “The hard thing was for the first month of the injury I couldn’t run, which is a problem. The injury was diagnosed as a small injury, but it wasn’t, it was a very bad calf injury. It’s been hard, a slow process getting fit.”
In addition to getting closer to match fitness, Lampard said he’s mentality recovered from his injury as well.
“I had a good week training last week, but I wasn’t ready to start a game on the weekend, but I’m getting toward that because I’ve lost the nervousness about having the injury,” he said.
Vieira, meanwhile, isn’t ready to commit to additional playing time yet. That comes with more reps at training.
“It’s important for Frank to believe in his calf and keep playing and keep training like he did the last few weeks,” Vieira said. “Then he will have 20 minutes here, 15 minutes there, but what is important is to train every day and not miss training. The games will come with how long he’s been training.”
The same, he said, is true of Harrison, who missed the entire preseason with a pelvic injury. The No. 1 overall selection in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft showed glimpses of his potential in the 33 minutes he was on the field Saturday.
“He’s a good player, technically he’s really good, he understands the game, he can come and link with our No. 9, he can run behind their back four, his football brain is fantastic,” Vieira said. “He’s a really young talented player. We just have to build him up. We don’t want to put him in a difficult situation. It will take time for him to get back to his best.”