Stejskal: Redeemed Lampard, red-hot Gerrard ready for showdown in New York

Frank Lampard - New York City FC - celebrates goal vs. Impact

Once upon a time three months ago, serious people were having serious discussions on a very unserious website about whether or not Frank Lampard was the worst Designated Player in MLS history.

Lampard, fresh off of last year’s will-he-or-won’t-he, wait-where-the-hell-is-he saga, had just made his 2016 debut, coming on to a chorus of boos late in NYCFC’s 7-0 waxing at the hands of the New York Red Bulls on May 21 at Yankee Stadium.

It was a low point in what had been a miserable MLS tenure for Lampard. Plenty of folks were blasting off on the English legend, with one media member going as far as to call him, if not the worst DP in MLS history, then certainly the worst high-profile one.

Three months, nine goals and one MLS Player of the Month nod later, that same media member (who shall remain nameless) tweeted some praise of Lampard, then proceeded to scoff in pretty much the most haughty way possible about all the folks who had ever dared to put him in the worst DP discussion.

Hilarious journalistic inconsistencies aside, Lampard has put that conversation – which was always a bit ridiculous – completely to bed.

He’s been excellent since his inauspicious season debut, with his nine goals powering NYCFC to the top of the Eastern Conference with just nine regular season games remaining. He’s become one of his club’s most important players, and, even if it’s a bit later than most would’ve imagined, looks like he might be able to live up to the lofty expectations placed upon him when he signed as NYCFC’s second-ever player in July 2014.

It’s a nice redemption story, and it’s not the only one being written by a high-profile English midfielder.

His turnaround hasn’t been nearly as drastic, but Lampard’s old buddy Steven Gerrard is rounding into form nicely for the Galaxy after a tough start to his stint in LA. Apart from a few games immediately following Giovani dos Santos’ arrival last summer, Gerrard was largely indifferent in 2015. He drew plenty of heat after the Galaxy’s Knockout Round loss at Seattle last October, with some of that criticism carrying over as he got off to a slow start in 2016.

For most of last year and for the first part of this season, Gerrard just didn’t look all that comfortable. He scored the odd goal, but wasn’t really connecting with his teammates in the way that we’d expect from such an accomplished player.

That all changed a couple of months ago, when Bruce Arena moved Stevie G into more of an attacking role in the Galaxy midfield. The move up the field, paired with a year’s worth of familiarity with his LA teammates, has yielded some excellent results. Gerrard has carried LA in his last seven league games, either scoring or assisting on eight (one goal, seven assists) of the Galaxy’s nine total goals. In all, he has three goals and 11 assists on the season, tied for second in the league with Sebastian Giovinco.

Lampard and Gerrard will face off on Saturday, when NYCFC will host LA at Yankee Stadium (3 pm ET; ESPN in the US | MLS LIVE in Canada). They’re finally in form, the critics are finally quiet and, instead of worrying if one of them is the worst DP in MLS history, we can look forward to seeing which one plays better this weekend.