Frank Lampard joins New York City FC of MLS

July 24, 2014 - 5:05 PM
NYCFC Lampard Soccer

Frank Lampard, of England, smiles during his introduction as a member of the MLS expansion club New York City FC, Thursday, July 24, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle)

NEW YORK (AP) — The newest team in Major League Soccer is doing its part to fill Yankee Stadium with stars.

New York City FC introduced Frank Lampard in Brooklyn on Thursday after signing the 36-year-old former Chelsea midfielder to a two-year contract.

"Why not New York? Talk about ticking all the boxes. I want to carry on challenging myself." Lampard said at a news conference . "That's a great challenge, isn't it? City of hopes and dreams. That's where you want to go to and play isn't it?"

The club owned by Manchester City of the Premier League and the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball previously signed David Villa of Atletico Madrid.

Both City and Atletico won league championships last year, meaning the expansion soccer team set to begin playing home games at the ballpark in 2015 is also bringing more champions to the Bronx than Yankee Stadium's full-time tenants have lately.

The news conference was held at Brooklyn Bridge Park, where several soccer fields share space on a pier in the East River across from Lower Manhattan. A couple dozen fans, many in blue Chelsea jerseys, gathered around to listen, at times cheering and getting laughs from the dais, where Lampard was flanked by club sporting director Claudio Reyna , chief business officer Tim Pernetti, and coach Jason Kreis.

Lampard, who has scored 211 goals for England and Chelsea, became the latest international star to move to MLS. Most famous was David Beckham, who joined the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 from Real Madrid.

"I think this is an incredibly exciting time for the league," Kreis said. Lampard is "a rare talent, one that scores a lot of goals from midfield, yet is also a disciplined defender and someone who reads the game brilliantly."

Lampard was asked about a widely reported encounter with American travelers in 2001, shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when he and teammates were fined following reports they were behaving drunkenly and boorishly in front of the distraught Americans.

"I was naive and a young boy at the time and I have some regrets," Lampard said. "I categorically didn't insult anyone, set out to insult anyone, behave badly in front of Americans or in fact anyone. I've tried in the last 13 years at Chelsea to build up — well, to just be a good man really and not just be a good footballer, but a good man off the pitch. ... Unfortunately it was very much misreported at the time in England and it's actually a chance for me to finally say that."

Lampard, speaking with the skyline behind him across the river, said he "of course" plans to visit the Sept. 11 memorial.

"You visit this great city, you know what it means to New Yorkers. I think you go and pay your respects, so yes I will," he said.

Kreis said the team examined the situation and considers the matter resolved. His newest player is someone with strong feelings about New York.

"I want New Yorkers to hear that and see that," Lampard said. "It's up to me to show them here and prove the footballer I am and the person that I am."