The former Chelsea and England midfielder went into the match with just three substitute appearances under his belt this term after missing NYCFC’s opening 12 games with a calf strain, but it took him just eight minutes to mark his return to the starting line-up with the opener.
After Tommy McNamara’s scuffed shot fell to him a few yards out, the 37-year-old Designated Player made no mistake with a calm finish put the hosts 1-0 up on the afternoon.
Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 18, 2016
NYCFC went on to grab their second in the 21st-minute following a swift counterattack, as rookie winger Jack Harrison raced the length of the pitch before setting up skipper David Villa for the finish with a neat backheel pass.
Andrea Pirlo then made it 3-0 five minutes after half-time with his first MLS strike, placing a free-kick past Union goalkeeper Andre Blake from just outside the box to give the hosts what looked to be a comfortable lead at the time.
The visitors pulled a goal back five minutes later, however, when half-time substitute Roland Alberg converted a penalty after fellow attacker Fabian Herbers was fouled in the box by Jason Hernandez.
Hernandez was later shown his marching orders in the 85th-minute after picking up a second booking, before Brian Carroll helped further reduce the deficit for Philadelphia two minutes from stoppage-time when his header from a corner deflected off NYCFC defender Frederic Brillant and into the net for an own goal.
Patrick Vieira’s men managed to survive a nail-biting finish, though, to snap a four-game winless streak in the league and hand the Union their first loss in eight matches.
The victory also came after they were dumped out of the US Open Cup on Wednesday night by a 1-0 defeat to crosstown rivals New York Cosmos, and Vieira was quick to single out Lampard for particular praise at the final whistle after seeing him answer some of the recent criticism he has received with a strong 75-minute showing.
“I’m really happy for Frank,” the Frenchman told nycfc.com. “But I’m not really surprised about him scoring because if you look at his goalscoring record he’s been fantastic. I’m really pleased for him because he’s been working really hard, working really well in training.
“That was the right time to start him and he showed for the first 75 minutes how important he will be for us.
“I think everybody was really hurt by how we lost to the Cosmos. It was really important for us to respond as a football club, as a team, to show how good we are and how strong we are.
“We didn’t make it easy on ourselves today, but the three points were really important for us.”
Lampard, whose goal was his fourth for NYCFC since joining the club last summer, added: “I think the performance in the first half was great. The only disappointment was that we gave two goals away after being 3-0 up and made it a nervous end.
“Today was only my first start so it was great to score early for both me and the team. I’ve been feeling really good. I’ve been training a lot – not just getting my injury better but also getting my match fitness better.
“There’ve been frustrations on all parts, but particularly mine because I want to be out there. I’m confident in myself and know what I want to do here. When I start, play and progress with my fitness, I can hopefully give the fans much more to cheer about.”