The former Chelsea and England midfielder, who was named the MLS Player of the Month for July, opened the scoring 41 minutes into the match at MAPFRE Stadium, following up an Andrea Pirlo free-kick that Crew SC goalkeeper Steve Clark parried off the post and firing home from close range.
NYCFC’s lead only lasted four minutes into the second half, however, when Justin Meram equalised with a powerful header from Waylon Francis’ cross after some nice build-up play from the hosts.
Ethan Finlay then gave Columbus the lead from the penalty spot 10 minutes from stoppage-time after being brought down in the box by Frederic Brillant, before David Villa put Vieira’s men back on level terms just three minutes later with his 14th goal of the season.
The Spanish striker subsequently looked to have sealed his side all three points in the 92nd-minute when he converted a spot-kick of his own after Harrison Afful handled the ball in area, but a last-gasp strike from Finlay ensured that the two sides shared the points.
“We’re a bit disappointed not to win in the end,” Lampard told NYCFC’s official website after the hectic finish. “To go up in injury-time and then draw the game feels like points lost. It was a difficult game, they had their chances, but I think in that position we need to see the game out.
“I don’t want to sound too pessimistic – it’s probably just because of the results – but certainly, in terms of the character of the players, we can feel very proud of the way we fought back and played.
“I think we had some tough calls at the end of the game, but the overall picture was we worked hard as a team. It was a tough game and we’ve come away with a point. We just have to keep going, work hard in the week and keep going. We know when we’re at our best we can pretty much beat anyone.”
Despite the draw, NYCFC still sit top of the Eastern Conference after 25 games, having racked up 10 wins and eight draws to leave them with 38 points – two more than the second-placed New York Red Bulls and one more than they accumulated over the entirety of their inaugural 2015 season.
As well as finally having a healthy Lampard at their disposal, their form away from home has been key to their outstanding turnaround, with the club currently boasting a league-best record of six victories on the road.
“Playing away from home, we have to show that we are well-organized but we have to show some character as well, some personality,” head coach Vieira told MLSSoccer.com after the draw with Columbus. “We did it again tonight, and we just have to manage to improve our home record.”