The Lee Nguyen Saga was a major story line at the beginning of the 2018 season, but New England Revolution players don’t think it affected their campaign.
The drama started when Nguyen was absent for the Revs’ first training session on Jan. 23. It was soon revealed that the star midfielder was hoping to force a trade. At the time, general manager Michael Burns stated that the club has “zero tolerance for guys who don’t honor their contracts.”
Nguyen rejoined the Revolution during the second week of February, but never saw the field. On May 2, he was sent to LAFC for $700,000 in allocation money, with the possibility of future considerations.
It was a massive move for the Revolution, who had relied on Nguyen since his arrival in 2012. It didn’t take long, however, for the team to find a new direction.
“Obviously Lee’s a great player and he’s done well for the team,” Andrew Farrell explained during his exit interview on Sunday. “Once that happened, we started to focus on the players that we have here, not necessarily the guys that aren’t here.”
Nguyen’s absence, both before and after the trade, created an opening at the No. 10 spot, which was filled by Diego Fagundez for much of 2018. The attacker repaid his coach’s faith by collecting three goals and one assist in season’s first five games. The Revs were 3-1-1 during that stretch and 4-3-2 when Nguyen departed for the West Coast.
The Revs had a competitive record by the time summer hit, though things began to sour when they lost 3-2 to the LA Galaxy on Jul. 14. The team ultimately finished 10-13-11, which put them nine points shy of the playoff line.
Given the rough end to the year, you have to wonder if the Revs missed Nguyen. Defender Antonio Delamea doesn’t think that was the case.
“I don’t think that affected us much,” Delamea said. “He’s not here. You need to replace him and do everything possible to achieve the goals for your team.”
Unfortunately for the Revs, they didn’t qualify for the playoffs for the third straight season. To the players, this has less to do with Nguyen’s departure and more to do with their own shortcomings. After all, trades are a regular occurrence in soccer. When they happen, teams must remain professional and be ready to adapt.
Although he’s now on a different coast, Revs players remain in contact with Nguyen and wish him nothing but the best.
“I still have a good relationship with Lee,” Delamea noted. “He’s a nice guy. He did a lot for this club. I’m just happy for him, that he got traded, that he went somewhere that’s better for him.”