For the first time in New York City FC’s brief MLS tenure the club is clicking in all facets of the game. The side’s most recent victory over the defending champion Portland Timbers highlighted that fact, starting with goalkeeper Josh Saunders and finishing up front with superstar forward David Villa.
Unbeaten in their last four matches and coming off of three straight wins, NYCFC is flying high, but the return of one of last season’s star signings could potentially harm the cohesion being built by head coach Patrick Vieira.
According to the NYCFC head coach, Frank Lampard is nearing a return for the Eastern Conference co-leaders.
While it may not sound like such a bad thing, especially for a team that is paying the Designated Player a contract of roughly $6 million per season, NYCFC’s already overcrowded midfield will be adding another number into the mix.
This is where Vieira will earn his paycheck.
Already having faced criticism this season for leaving Kwadwo Poku on the bench, the NYCFC coach will now have to balance the core of the midfield, currently held down by Andrea Pirlo, Federico Bravo and Mix Diskerud.
Given Pirlo’s legend status and DP contract, it isn’t likely that he will be sacrificed when Lampard returns. Bravo’s emergence in the team has given New York City stability in front of the backline, especially since Pirlo doesn’t have the legs to be a two-way player like he once was. That could leave Diskerud as the the odd man out in the middle of the park.
Vieira typically employs a three-pronged central midfield contingent, which will likely involve Lampard and Pirlo sitting in front of Bravo.
The biggest question that surrounds Lampard though, and has since his arrival in New York City, is his health. After playing in just 10 matches last season, the former Chelsea midfielder has yet to appear for NYCFC in 2016 due to injury.
While the 37-year-old did manage to tally three goals in his appearances for the side a year ago, Lampard must push harder this season in order to avoid the stigma that has already plagued him as being a bust.
The NYCFC faithful haven’t strayed away from letting their team know when they aren’t happy about something, and Lampard won’t be any different if he isn’t up to par on his return.