Frank Lampard's debut to Bradley Wright-Phillips' new role: five things to look out for in the MLS
By James Kilpatrick
Last Updated: 09/07/15 11:38am
As Frank Lampard prepares to make his New York City FC debut, we pick five things to look out for in the MLS this weekend...
New York City FC v Toronto FC: Will Frank Lampard shine on his debut?
It's the day NYCFC fans have been waiting for since January 10, when it was officially announced Frank Lampard would become a New York City FC player.
The Chelsea legend's move was pushed back NYCFC sister club Manchester City decided to keep hold of the 37-year-old to the end of the Premier League season and beyond the start of the MLS campaign in March.
But, after the controversy that surrounded the delayed move, Lampard finally arrives to be part of a midfield pairing with another brand new signing – Italian maestro Andrea Pirlo.
Pirlo is not expected to make his league debut until July 26 against Orlando City, meaning all the spotlight will be on the former Blues captain this weekend as New York City play Toronto FC at an expected full-capacity Yankee Stadium.
Lampard described himself as a "lucky man" to playing alongside Pirlo and David Villa and it is the Spaniard who is the man of the moment for NYC, having scored a pair of goals for the second time in the last three matches as his team won for the fourth time out of their last five games to sit seventh in the East.
Toronto may struggle in this game as they make do without Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley who are both on Gold Cup duty.
But all eyes will be focused on Lampard as he looks to make an impact on the pitch straight from day one.
New York Red Bulls v New England Revolution: Who can stop their decline?
Both Red Bulls and Revolution are struggling for form after good starts to their respective campaigns in March and April.
New England have won just once in their last 11 matches and have lost their last four in a row. New York, meanwhile, have won two in their last eight. Those two back-to-back wins for the Red Bulls came before their 2-1 loss to Columbus at the weekend.
Nineteen-year-old Anatole Abang scored the lone goal for the Red Bulls in that game, making it his third goal in his last five games. Impressively, Abang’s form has ensured his spot as the main lone striker up front, at least for now.
This has forced Bradley Wright-Phillips to play on the left wing. It is expected Abang will spearhead the attack again this weekend.
New England will be desperate to get out of their slump this weekend. With rumours of a summer player clear-out and the lack of creativity they had which got them to the MLS Cup final last season makes for a concerning rest of the summer.
Orlando City SC v FC Dallas: Are Orlando capable of winning without Kaka?
Orlando City won a lot of admirers in their 1-1 draw against Real Salt Lake last weekend with a notable defensive performance.
Kaka was sent off just before half time for his first ever career red card. Before being dismissed, the Brazilian scored his ninth goal of the season to tie him for second in the MLS golden boot standings.
It was Kaka's sixth goal in his last eight games but now he has been banned from playing FC Dallas this weekend and others will have to step up to fill the void left by the club captain and talisman.
And FC Dallas have some individual brilliance of their own to look towards.
Fabian Castillo on the left wing can be lethal on the counter-attack while No 10 Mauro Diaz scored a goal and added an assist in the win against New England at the weekend.
It was the second time this season and the fourth time in the tricky Argentine’s two-year MLS career that he’s been involved in multiple goals in one MLS match. Diaz has a goal and two assists in his last two.
On a side note, Orlando could sorely miss their young Canadian striker Cyle Larin, who has been called up for his country at the Gold Cup.
Vancouver Whitecaps v Sporting Kansas City: Will Vancouver keep the pressure up on Seattle?
Two of MLS’ most aesthetically pleasing sides clash in this heavyweight Western Conference clash. Vancouver saw their three-game winning streak on the road come to an end quite surprisingly by Kevin Doyle’s Colorado Rapids on Saturday evening.
It means that Vancouver are joint-top of the Western Conference with Seattle and can partially thank winger Kekuta Manneh for his efforts.
His blistering pace and ability to run off the shoulder of the last defender has seen him score three goals in his last four games. Such goals may have come as a relief to head coach Carl Robinson as club top scorer Octavio Rivero has scored just twice in his last 10.
Sporting Kansas City can be grateful to arguably their player of the season so far, Benny Feilhaber. With an outside chance of returning to the US National team fold for the Gold Cup, Feilhaber was not selected yet is performing well for his club side.
Feilhaber recorded an assist in the Colorado match, his ninth of the season, which puts him second in the MLS in those standings. Feilhaber has two goals and two assists over the last four games, with either a goal or an assist in each one.
Montreal Impact v Columbus Crew: Which underrated side will show greater competitive spirit?
Neither team are filled with big name players, but both Montreal and Columbus are making great strides to cement a play-off place this season.
Before losing to New York City FC last weekend, Montreal were on a four-game winning streak at home.
The Impact’s table position of ninth suggests they are struggling, but their triumphant CONCACAF Champions League campaign earlier this season means they have played six games less than some teams and are only five points off the play-off places.
Their even spread of goalscorers will also likely please head coach Frank Klopas as Ignacio Piatti, Jack McInerney and Andres Romero have scored five, four and three each.
Columbus are undefeated in their last four, currently occupying second in the East. Frontmen Kei Kamara and Ethan Finlay have been the greatest contributors to the side going forward.
Ethan Finlay scored twice in a game for the second time this season, as the Crew fought back to beat New York Red Bulls 2-1 on Saturday evening. Finlay has a goal and/or an assist in four consecutive games, with three goals and three assists in that time.
The win extended the Crew’s undefeated run to four games and they look set to stay in the upper echelons of the league for the rest of the season.