NEW YORK — Spotting sports celebrities from all walks of life at Yankee Stadium is a rather common occurrence, even for Major League Soccer matches, and Wednesday was no different. Shortly after New York City FC's 1-1 tie with the Montreal Impact, you could see everyone from retired baseball star Mike Piazza to New York Knicks center Kevin Seraphin mingling with the likes of Didier Drogba and Patrick Vieira.
One star who could be seen but didn't appear in much mood for conversation was Frank Lampard, who walked hastily through the crowd on his way out the door. The bowels of Yankee Stadium are just about the only place you are going to spot Lampard these days, because the playing field has continued to be a no-go for the former Chelsea star.
Lampard has missed every match this season with NYCFC, with Wednesday's draw marking the eighth game the second-year club has played without him. Though he has begun training with the team, Lampard still hasn't been deemed able to play and didn't even make the bench for Wednesday's match, which was billed as a reunion with former Chelsea teammate Drogba when the MLS schedule came out.
Unfortunately for NYCFC, Lampard spent the match in street clothes while Drogba delivered the game-tying assist in stoppage time to push the home side's winless streak to seven matches, including a grinding run of five matches at Yankee Stadium without a victory.
So when will Lampard return? Vieira, NYCFC's coach, doesn't know yet and says he isn't targeting a specific date.
"Lampard, I don't know, because we have to look at his injuries and look at the training he's doing to see how he improves day after day," Vieira said. "He's on his way back and this is really positive."
As far as a timetable on Lampard's potential return, Vieira wouldn't offer one.
"We don't want to put any date because it would not be fair to him," Vieira said. "He's working hard, he's working well. When he will be fit, he will be in the squad."
Lampard's place in the starting lineup is clear, in part because NYCFC's deep stable of midfielders has failed to yield a consistent group to help the team win matches. Andrea Pirlo sat out a match just last week, while Mix Diskerud has been a substitute for two straight games. Fan favorite Kwadwo Poku has found playing time scarce even in Lampard's absence. In fact, journeyman midfielder Tommy McNamara has actually emerged as the most consistent threat in the NYCFC midfield.
Lampard has been largely disappointing for the majority of his time with the club, going back to the controversial way his initial move to MLS was handled. Originally believed to be signed for the start of the 2015 season, Lampard went on loan to NYCFC's sister club, Manchester City, and wound up staying longer than anticipated after he enjoyed success with the English Premier League club.
That led to Manchester City keeping Lampard until the summer of 2015 — and then claiming he was never actually under contract with NYCFC until then. When Lampard finally did arrive, he was promptly sidelined by injury.
Lampard managed just 10 appearances in 2015, recording three goals and an assist — hardly the return expected from a star who was signed as one of the highest-paid players in MLS at $6 million per year.
The 2016 campaign was supposed to be different, with Lampard having a full preseason to prepare for his first full year with NYCFC, but a calf injury has kept the 37-year-old out of action for almost two months now and it remains unclear just when he will be back.