The Frank Lampard signing is backfiring on NYCFC? Who on earth would have guessed?
In fairness, few predicted that Lampard would play so amazingly well for Manchester City that he would be fashionably late for the Damn Yankees premiere. Wait, what's that, Paul Kennedy of Soccer America?
While Lampard has been a contributor for Man City with four goals, he started only five of its first 29 games in all competitions with appearances in 13 other games off the bench. He hasn't played longer than 60 minutes in any EPL game this season.
It's also instructive to see that the reaction to Houston Dynamo purchasing and loaning Erick Torres, which will also see an important player arrive comparatively late, has been much more restrained. I heartily detest Lampard, which might affect my scouting here, but I'd still take Torres over Lampard for my team in half a heartbeat.
Yet Dynamo fans are for some reason not lambasting MLS - in sharp contrast to NYCFC fans.
On behalf of the Third Rail, we would like to publicly denounce City Football Group’s and Frank Lampard’s decision to extend his loan to Manchester City until the end of the Premier League season.
Many fans, including our members, decided to support the team, committed to season tickets, and bought merchandise under the impression that Frank Lampard would be playing for New York City Football Club, not Manchester City. Many of those fans are rightly outraged by this decision, and we support any course of action they take to voice their discontent over this decision.
Our support for our ownership group has been unwavering until now, but this we cannot support. We reject out of hand any suggestion that NYCFC is in any way secondary to Manchester City FC, regardless of the source, and are disappointed that City Football Group would give such an appearance.
Which begs the question, "Okay, so, you're Red Bulls fans now, or something?" But the answer apparently is to abandon MLS altogether, per this impassioned editorial from Dave Martinez:
We are now on the third day of Lampardgate, and all anyone can come up with is conjecture and secondary reporting to explain the entire mess. By now, it is almost an accepted fact that Lampard never had a contract with New York City FC. That, in turn, means Lampard never had a contract with Major League Soccer. That means both NYCFC and MLS have lied to us.
All of us.
And no one is answering for their role.
People can grind their axe against NYCFC all they want, but MLS is complicit in this entire fiasco, and that alone should require some form of response.
Well, a New York-based fan is going to have some strong feelings about this, but Brian Sciaretta isn't coming at this from a partisan point of view, but arrives at the same conclusion:
This is a serious, serious problem but it speaks to a larger issue with the league. Garber was adamant from the start that Manchester City had its own independent vision for New York City FC. That promise has now gone up in spectacular flames.
Well, we shouldn't let facts get in the way of a good story, but neither should we let facts get in the way of other facts. Manchester City have more or less realistic title aspirations, and it's at least conceivable that Lampard could make a contribution - and, perhaps, the difference between a title and defeat. If Manuel Pellegrini hadn't tried to secure Lampard for as long as necessary, he would have been negligent to his team and their supporters.
MLS fans really should understand this. The David Beckham experience with AC Milan is instructive. You hear it otherwise these days, but the Galaxy's problem with Beckham was that Milan had tried to engineer a permanent transfer, not a loan extension. The Galaxy ended up living with the latter - as they would in subsequent seasons, not merely with Beckham but Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan as well.
At the time, opinion outside of AEG boardrooms was that the Galaxy should let Beckham have his wish to transfer to a "real" club. Today, the entire league is being blowtorched for letting a player extend a loan. So at least MLS is winning the expectations war.
Well, yes, MLS is also being blowtorched for lying to fans. Sure, I'd be interested to hear how Garber or Reyna or Kreis close the gap between this press release and this week's doings. But the idea that this is somehow going to hurt the league is a bit of a stretch. There are nineteen other teams, and each one has its own attractions, quirks and embarrassments. This doesn't hurt FC Dallas. This doesn't hurt Orlando City. This certainly doesn't hurt the Red Bulls. There will be no groundswell of returned Timbers tickets. San Jose won't close its stadium, DC United won't undo its stadium vote.
If this were any other sport, I suppose one might be concerned at the lack of...oh, what's the word I want...transparency. Dan LeBatard has talked about "the transaction being more important than the action" as a phenomenon that has beset American fans. And the Lampard transaction is unusual in that it might not even have happened.
But this isn't the first, or even the fifteenth, time that an MLS transaction has wilted under casual scrutiny. Stop me if I've told you this one, but allow me to quote the MLS Rules and Regulations for Player Transactions:
A wizard did it.
LeBatard covers (among many other things) NBA basketball in Miami, and therefore has plenty examples of transactions that changed the fates of entire franchises. Frank Lampard is not the soccer equivalent of LeBron James. And NYCFC is not the Cleveland Cavaliers. I assume NYCFC is richer, for one thing. Lampard is not even as famous as David Beckham, and I don't consider it proven by any means that if the Beckham signing had ended up completely failing, it would have taken the league with it.
Still less with Lampard. After all the hands and necks have been wrung, one of two things will happen. Either Lampard will arrive to play for NYCFC, at which point if he plays well all will be forgotten. Or, NYCFC will spend money to replace him, and the team and fans will look to the future. I don't think a fanbase who has seen all of no games yet will be at their final straw.
For some reason, we continue to underestimate the resilience of this league. Dallas survived Denilson. The Dynamo survived Luis Angel Landin. The Quakes survived Khodadad Azizi. The Fire survived Nery Castillo. The Red Bulls survived Claudio Reyna, at least for the moment. Chivas USA survived oh, wait, never mind.
It's too early to call NYCFC the new Chivas USA. At least give them a fighting chance to be the new Colorado Rapids.