When New York City FC visits the Citrus Bowl on March 8 for Orlando City's MLS opener, star midfielder Frank Lampard won't be there.
The Manchester City mothership has decreed that Lampard will stay with the EPL club through the end of its season, allowing the NYCFC Designated Player to finish out the team's remaining domestic and UEFA Champions League fixtures.
Manchester City can confirm that it has extended Frank Lampard's contract up to the end of Manchester City's season, enabling his continued participation in both domestic and European campaigns.
Predictably, New York fans are not happy, nor should they be.
This is the inevitable slap in the face I've expected Manchester City to dole out to MLS for some time. It clearly shows that ownership views its NYCFC venture as a minor league and its fans as somehow less important than those of MCFC. As Orlando City SC fans, this only affects us in that we are deprived of seeing a great visiting player, although New York will still have striker David Villa.
The club must act quickly to replace Lampard before the start of the season to save face with its own constituents or risk alienating its fan base before a single ball has been kicked. It could be argued that fans already feel alienated by the kit unveiling basically copying Manchester City's shirt.
As our friend Rafa over at Hudson River Blue so eloquently said:
With this move, Lampard now becomes a pantomime villain for New York City fans; the Alex Rodriguez to David Villa's Derek Jeter (an apt comparison in more ways than one, since the Yankees are part owners of NYC). If you thought the barracking David Beckham received for extending his Milan loan into late summer was intense, wait till you see the reception Lampard receives when he finally - if ever - shows up at Yankee Stadium. New York sports fans aren't known for their cool detachment, with good reason.
As I think back to the autumn rumors that Kaka might want to continue on at Sao Paolo, I consider Orlando City fans lucky that we didn't have to deal with a similar situation. While many Lions supporters will no doubt take a certain amount of schadenfreude from the Lampard situation, just remember...it could have been us.
How do you feel about missing out on seeing Lampard at the Citrus Bowl?