PURCHASE, N.Y. – It appears Frank Lampard’s long-awaited New York City FC debut is finally here.
The veteran midfielder, who has been hampered by a calf injury the past three weeks, trained fully with no limitations Friday morning and will be available for selection when NYCFC takes on the Montreal Impact at Yankee Stadium Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve really only had three training sessions for him to be available in,” NYCFC coach Jason Kreis said. “We’ve built him up throughout the week. Today, as you saw, he trained full so he’s in contention for tomorrow.”
While that’s welcome news for NYCFC fans, Kreis will also be careful to manage Lampard’s minutes. The most likely scenario would be to see the former England international come off the bench in the second half, similar to what Andrea Pirlo did last week in his MLS debut.
“He’s a player you don’t want to just throw out there and throw him to the wolves a bit,” Kreis said. “He has to be built into the soccer fitness because he’s been out for quite a long time.”
Lampard’s potential inclusion means that, for the first time, NYCFC will have all three of its designated players available to play together.
“It’s exciting to be at a place where we almost have all of our players available for the very first time this year,” Kreis said. “We still have one or two small injuries, but to have all the big guns ready and available tomorrow is exciting.”
Kreis said he had been concerned about Pirlo’s fatigue level after playing 33 minutes on a steamy afternoon this past Sunday in the Bronx, but was encouraged to see the Italian legend at training Monday with all the substitutes.
“I think that was admirable,” Kreis said. “He did quite a good job and he’s built up through this week. I feel like he’s gaining fitness and is in a good place.”
Kreis said he expects Pirlo to be available for more than 30 minutes this Saturday, but said “the answer about how many total minutes will have to be determined, a little bit, by how the game goes.”
David Villa also looked sharp and lively at training Friday, but the travel to and from the MLS All-Star Game Wednesday night, as well the altitude there, is more concerning than the Spanish striker playing 45 minutes in that match.
“From my point of view, 45 minutes in a match like that is like a hard training session. Wednesdays are typically a hard training session, so I think it fell in the right part of the week,” Kreis said. “A little bit of a troubling matter is the flight to Denver and back and the altitude. Those are things we’ll be mindful of tomorrow.”
Kreis has lauded Villa for his performances, especially in the last four to six weeks, calling what he’s seen “special.” During that time, the 34-year-old has scored nine goals in seven matches, and NYCFC is 4-2-1 during that stretch.
“It’s unfortunate, but the weight to make special plays is a little bit on his shoulders, and was way too much on his shoulders for the first half of the season. I think some of that weight burdened him and us,” Kreis said. “I think some of that weight is now lifting with some other very good and special players around him and the addition of some guys coming off of injury as well. What you see, I think, is a happier David.”