Earlier this year, Frank Lampard had been labeled by many as the worst Designated Player signing in the history of Major League Soccer. But what a difference a few weeks can make.
On Saturday, Lampard continued his roll of scoring for New York City FC, tallying a hat trick worth eight goals in as many games -- with a pair of rather nice finishes at that:
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His third goal came on a penalty kick and it gave Lampard the first hat trick in NYCFC history.
Since Lampard scored his first goal of the year on June 18, he leads the league for the most goals during that stretch of time. And with Lampard's return to form, NYCFC have been a surprising success story and sit atop the Eastern Conference standings in first place on 33 points in 22 games played.
It's a pretty amazing turnaround considering how awful the signing of Lampard looked up until his first goal. It took the 38-year-old a whopping 15 weeks to even make his debut this season as a lingering calf injury that sidelined him for much of last season persisted. As the first third of the season came and went without Lampard playing a single minute, his reported $6 million salary looked like wasted money for NYCFC.
But now it appears that even at 38, if Lampard is healthy, he's still got it. He has shown that his positioning and signature runs into the box are still top-notch, and his partnership with David Villa has been perhaps one of the biggest keys for NYCFC lately. Lampard's pushes into the box allow Villa to drift into the flanks where the pair can combine, and Lampard has done well with holding up the ball, which ultimately tends to benefit Villa, who has 13 goals this season.
Sure, Lampard has a long way to go before anyone will be declaring him as one of the best Designated Player signings in MLS. After all, he has still missed a third of this season and his impact was minimal last year, too. But he is slowly making up for lost time and winning back public opinion. If he can keep scoring goals like he did on Saturday and NYCFC make the playoffs, it's a good bet that his early-season struggles will be forgiven, if not forgotten.
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