A solitary statistic will never tell the full story, but the fact that the New England Revolution are now 6-1-1 when Lee Nguyen scores does help illuminate his importance. Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Chivas USA was just another game that showcased Nguyen’s significance.
The lone goal of the night came in the 56th minute when Nguyen beat Dan Kennedy with a shot from just outside the penalty box. The goal was the product of some creative interplay between Kelyn Rowe, Daigo Kobayashi and Nguyen. Kobayashi used a backheel to return Rowe’s pass, prompting the Washington native to push the ball to Nguyen. The midfield maestro would then offer up a beautiful curler that found the upper left corner of the net.
The goal solidified Nguyen’s status as the team’s leading scorer. Currently sitting on nine goals, Nguyen has already equaled his scoring output of the last two years combined. He has also offered two assists.
"I think he’s finished a lot of balls," Kelyn Rowe said when asked about Nguyen’s success. "Like the shot today, it’s incredible. It’s something that Lee puts away 8-9 times out of 10. We’re giving him chances and he’s taking them."
Goals and assists are only part of the reason why Nguyen has been so imperative this year. According to WhoScored.com, the Texas native has provided 49 key passes, 32 successful dribbles and 15 interceptions. Of course, his team-leading four game-winning goals will always capture the headlines.
Nguyen’s creative mind and tireless effort come with repercussions. The midfielder is currently the most fouled player for the Revolution with 53 total fouls, which averages out to 2.41 per game. Against the New York Red Bulls, Nguyen was cleaned out by Matt Miazga, an infraction that led to a first half exit for the defender. Erik Torres earned a yellow card on Saturday when he chopped down Nguyen out of frustration. The constant barrage of fouls have forced Nguyen to adapt.
"He got kicked pretty hard a lot," head coach Jay Heaps commented. "When he gets it off his foot the first time and he finds the second ball…the game is his."
Already a career year, Nguyen has caught the attention of many. After being called the "best player in MLS you’re not watching" by the Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle, Nguyen has appeared on both MLSSoccer.com’s Team of the Week and SI.com Planet Futbol’s Best XI three times. He has also gotten requests to be called up by the US national team and to be named as the league’s MVP.
While Nguyen is receiving more love from media pundits this season, his teammates are quick to point out that he’s always been a good player.
"People think that Lee wasn’t as good last year (but) I think he was just as good," Rowe explained. "I think he’s just gotten more chances and he’s taken his chances very well this year."
As for the player himself, he’s just happy to be helping his team.
"It was great to get three points, that’s the main thing," Nguyen said.