Garber backs NYCFC, City Football Group after Lampard controversy

PHILADELPHIA —  

MLS commissioner Don Garber backed New York City FC and City Football Group to find the proper footing in the wake of the complications and the frustrations surrounding Frank Lampard and his delayed arrival in New York City.

Garber admitted both clubs and the league needed to handle similar matters differently and more transparently in the future, but he said NYCFC will find a way to put the Lampard imbroglio behind them with the club’s debut on the horizon next month.

“This is not easy stuff,” Garber said during a press conference at the MLS SuperDraft. “They’ll figure it out, like all new teams figure it out. We believe in them. We believe in what they are going to do to build our league. We very much wanted a second team in New York City. We believe it’s important to help grow the league to have two teams in New York City. And we’re confident it’s going to go right. There will be bumps and bruises along the way, but that’s not exclusive to any one team.”

New York City FC sporting director Claudio Reyna said this hectic period and the start of training camp next week allowed NYCFC to focus squarely on the road ahead instead of the recent discussions surrounding Lampard’s status.

“I think now we’ve made enough comments about it,” Reyna said. “There have been statements. We’re moving forward. Frank is coming in July. We’re really excited. It was never the intent for it to play out this way. At the end of it, we’re getting a great player. MLS is getting a great player. He’s very committed to NYCFC. We’re looking forward to having him join the team.”

Lampard is now scheduled to arrive in July after spending the remainder of the Premier League season in Manchester. The former England international, 36, will make the jump into MLS without the typical time allotted to prepare for the upcoming campaign.

The decision by Lampard and City Football Group to extend his short-term deal with Manchester City sparked a furious reaction when NYCFC confirmed the pact on New Year’s Eve.

It marked a significant course correction after NYCFC initially announced Lampard joined Manchester City on loan from the expansion club during the summer. The classification change rankled supporters because NYCFC heralded Lampard’s arrival in the summer and used his signing to bolster the club.

“He was signed by City Football Group,” Garber said. “He was signed. Frank has said he’s signed. Man City has said he’s signed. They mischaracterized that he was signed and then loaned out. They’ve acknowledged that they’ve miscategorized it. The league was well aware that he had made a commitment to City Football Group to come to MLS.

"At that time, as you’ve heard, he needed six months to figure out what he was going to do," Garber continued. "[Manchester City manager Manuel] Pellegrini approached him to play for Man City. He agreed to do that. It never should have been characterized the way it was. It wasn’t that they were trying to do something to mislead the fans. They just characterized it improperly.”

Lampard’s unexpected influence within the Manchester City first team further complicated matters. Garber said no one anticipated the situation nor intended for the arrangement to keep Lampard in England until the summer.  

NYCFC coach Jason Kreis expressed confidence about Lampard’s ability to make an impact once he joins the club and underscored the work ahead to ensure a firm base is in place before his arrival.

“I’m not really concerned,” Kreis said. “I think if you look at the situation, he comes in and he’s adding something to that group. He’s not being asked to play 90 minutes every single week. I don’t think the drain is there for him physically, but he’s still training at an extremely high level. It’s really a great situation for us."

"Obviously, we understand the disappointment of all of our fans," Kreis continued. "But now we have move forward and look at it as a positive thing. For me, I look at it and say, if we can do our jobs well and be a good team before he comes, imagine that: We get to add Frank Lampard to what is already a good team. That’s our objective.”