NEW YORK – The rapturous applause was the same as it was last week when Andrea Pirlo came off the bench to make his Major League Soccer debut.
But Frank Lampard’s first appearance for New York City FC wasn’t quite what the former English international envisioned.
In an ideal world, NYCFC would have led the Montreal Impact and Lampard could have eased into his new role with the expansion team.
Instead, Lampard felt rushed and pressed to get his new team an equalizer it wasn’t able to find in a 3-2 loss Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
“It’s always difficult to come in when you’re chasing the game because you need to get straight into it and you’re trying to force things because you need to score goals so you sometimes play forward quicker,” Lampard said. “It was the usual difficulties.”
Lampard has been sidelined with a calf injury since arriving from England last month and only trained fully with NYCFC on Friday. Head coach Jason Kreis knew the legendary midfielder would be limited. It was just a matter of coming to a compromise with the training staff.
“We needed to limit Frank to under 30 minutes,” Kreis said. “If it was up to the training staff, they would have limited him to under 20. We made a negotiation and wanted to get Frank on there for as long as we could and 25 [minutes] was the answer.”
Lampard said it was good to finally get on the field and hopes, with a full week of training and treatment ahead, that he can push for a starting spot in the third and final match against the New York Red Bulls next Sunday in Harrison.
“I’ll hopefully get the calf right, get some fitness in the meantime and start contributing quickly because you know this season is going on and we need to win games,” Lampard said.
The biggest positive Lampard could draw from the loss was the reaction by the crowd who gave him a standing ovation when he replaced Andrew Jacobson immediately after David Villa scored from the penalty spot.
“I think the fans have supported the team fantastically and they did for me today,” Lampard said. “It’s up to me now to repay that by playing well.”
It was also a mixed bag for Pirlo, who started for the first time and played the entire 90 minutes after a little more than 30 minutes in a 5-3 win over Orlando City last weekend.
“I hope I’ll be able to continue to improve,” the Italian icon said. “Today I felt fine even though it was very hot. I’ve been training for 10 days so it’s not so much a matter of how many minutes I play or don’t. The issue is always to keep playing well.”
While Kreis said he knows it will take some time for Lampard, Pirlo and the rest of the team’s newcomers to jell with their teammates, he is more concerned about NYCFC’s defensive form of late.
Both scored off long balls over the top that Kreis said was a result of a lack of communication, quick decision making and pressure on the service. Kreis was especially upset about his team’s effort in the first half in a game that could have pushed NYCFC over the playoff line. Instead, they now sit three points behind sixth-place Montreal, which has three games in hand.
“The performance for me was poor,” Kreis said. “I know it was hot and these are difficult games to play in, but there was another team that had more energy and more effort and more commitment than we did for 45 minutes.”