The scoreboard read 0-5.
The fourth official held up his board of glowing numbers.
Andre Pirlo trotted off the pitch dejectedly, and boos rang around the stadium.
The New York City FC fans were not booing the score-line, or Pirlo’s substitution, but his replacement. The boos reached a crescendo as Frank Lampard, on his return from injury, made his way onto the pitch.
It was his first appearance this season.
It was a low point for both player and club; as Patrick Vieira’s side went on to suffer a crushing 7-0 defeat at home to their bitter rivals New York Red Bulls. The defeat was the joint largest in MLS history, and highlighted the gulf between the teams.
NYCFC have succeeded in attracting several big name players, such as David Villa and Andre Pirlo, and expectations for the club were high. However, success has remained elusive thus far.
Lampard expressed his frustration after the game;
“If I’m getting booed for being injured, there’s not much I can do about that.”
The jeers that were reserved for Lampard are indicative of the former Chelsea star’s fall from grace. To say that the storied midfielder’s MLS career has been unsuccessful is an understatement.
The 37 year old was recently voted the worst signing in MLS history, and it’s not hard to see why.
Lampard has an unpopular player in the US since 2001, when he was fined for drunkenly abusing US tourists, who were stranded at a Heathrow hotel following the 9/11 attacks. The New York Daily News were quick to remind the American public of the unsavoury incident when Lampard signed for NYCFC, which certainly didn’t gain the Englishman any admirers.
MLS fans’ annoyance with Lampard was further exacerbated when he opted to extend his loan at Man City, who share the same owners as New York City FC. The decision to go on loan, couple with a string of injuries, meant that it took Lampard 373 days to make his debut for NYCFC.
Lampard, who earns a reported $6 million per year, amassed just 10 appearances (and three goals) in his first season in America.
It was also recently announced that Lampard will be part of the BBC’s Euro 2016 punditry team, despite the tournament taking place slap bang in the middle of the MLS season. This, unsurprisingly, has further infuriated his doubters, who cannot be blamed for questioning his commitment.
It seems highly unlikely that Lampard will be able to win over all his detractors, and his fall from grace continues to hit new lows.
High-profile players are signed by American clubs for the purpose of promoting and improving the league. At best, players like Robbie Keane improve the league and draw attention to it. At worst, the MLS attracts players who see the league as a retirement holiday, where they can make some easy money before hanging up the boots.
Whether by luck or intention, Frank Lampard’s MLS career has thus far fallen into the latter category. In the absence of a remarkable turnaround, the former England international’s stint at NYCFC looks doomed.