NEW YORK – It was a vintage and virtuoso Frank Lampard performance.
Wearing the captain’s armband he scored a hat trick to lead his team to victory in the pouring rain.
It wasn’t Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, but on Saturday afternoon the English midfielder helped lead New York City FC to a stunning 5-1 win over the Colorado Rapids at Yankee Stadium.
In the most lopsided victory in the club’s short history, Lampard scored the club’s first-ever hat trick.
“I’m really happy. I didn’t realize that,” Lampard said. “I know it’s a very short history, but it’s a great accolade for me. As a person I’m very happy. When I’m playing well and feeling good, hopefully I can score goals. I’ve managed to do it since I’ve been fit.”
Lampard has eight goals since June 18, the most in Major League Soccer during that stretch. His first goal was similar to his first five this year, a sliding effort inside the six-yard box.
He followed with two more in a three-minute span late, a blast inside the far post from 16 yards out and the last from the penalty spot.
“In this system, it’s fantastic. He can build up the play, he can finish,” said NYCFC assistant Christian Lattanzio, who filled in for the suspended Patrick Vieira. “He scored 177 goals in the Premier League, the fifth top scorer ever. Also, as a captain, he was magnificent. I thought he was a big influence on the team.”
Lampard wore the captain’s armband in David Villa’s absence. The leading scorer in MLS served a one-game suspension because of yellow card accumulation, one of three regulars out through suspension.
Andrea Pirlo’s availability was in question after playing 30 minutes in the MLS All-Star Game Thursday night and flying cross-country. But the Italian legend was superb in his 66-minute shift.
“Andrea played 30 minutes, but he has experience and an ability to manage himself. He’s a great professional player,” Lattanzio said. “He felt ready to play, he felt good despite the long travel. … Andrea didn’t need convincing. He wanted to play and for us it was welcome news."
Tony Taylor filled in for Villa and scored his second goal of the season – and first at Yankee Stadium – five minutes after Colorado midfielder Michael Azira was sent off for his second bookable offense. Diego Martinez was solid at left back and Maxime Chanot, who had one training session with the squad, replaced an injured Jefferson Mena at halftime to make his debut.
And Steven Mendoza, who hadn’t stepped onto the field since a 3-2 loss to Real Salt Lake on June 2, came off the bench to put the game away in the 75th minute.
“I think it shows the depth,” Lampard said. “It shows unity and more than anything it shows a lot of those individuals who are sometimes not playing, but they’re keeping fit and contributing when they play.”
It also shows the resolve of a team not ready to relinquish first place in the Eastern Conference. Only once has NYCFC (10-7-6) lost back-to-back games this season and each time they’ve suffered a tough loss, as was the case at Red Bull Arena last Sunday, they’ve had the response.
They are also 3-1-1 in their last five at Yankee Stadium after struggling to find results at home early in the season.
“The three goals personally feel great, but for the team more importantly, twice now in recent weeks we’ve lost a game and come straight back the next week and won,” Lampard said. “That’s what a team that wants to stay at the top of the table needs to do.”