Lee Nguyen still has love for New England Revolution fans, even if they booed him on his Gillette Stadium return.
Nguyen was a central piece for the New England Revolution from 2012-2018, primarily serving as an attacking midfielder. His best year came in 2014 when he collected 18 goals and five assists during the regular season before leading the team to the MLS Cup final.
His contributions were recognized by both the organization and its fans, as he won the team’s MVP award as well as the Midnight Riders’ Man of the Year award in both 2012 and 2014.
Then came the drama.
Looking for a trade, Nguyen refused to come to the first day of training camp in 2018. He eventually returned to practice, but never played another game for the Revolution. On May 1, he was traded to Los Angeles FC.
On Saturday, Nguyen was welcomed back to Gillette Stadium with a pre-game video. In the 79th minute, he entered the game as a replacement for Adama Diomande.
Boos were heard throughout the stadium as Nguyen took the field. This moment won’t stick with him, however. Instead, he’ll remember the interactions he had with the fans after the game.
“You never know how the fans are going to react,” Nguyen said. “I think it was a tell that after the game, everybody was amazing and thankful, and it was great to see that. That thing warms my heart. It was a great welcome back, for sure.”
Nguyen recognizes that his departure from the Revolution was a messy one, saying that it “obviously wasn’t the way I wanted it to happen.” Nguyen, who asked for a trade at the end of the 2017, was looking for a change in scenery. When that request was denied, he decided to take the advice of his agents and sit out.
“Mike [Burns] said it: They weren’t willing to budge on anything,” Nguyen said about the negotiation process. “That was their stance. I had to take my stance too. Now we are where we are.”
Nguyen is now with LAFC, who are favorites to claim the Supporters Shield. The Revs are on the rise after replacing head coach Brad Friedel and general manager Michael Burns with Bruce Arena.
Nguyen noted that the change has been a positive one, saying, “Bruce came in and has done a good job to re-right the ship and they were on an 11-game unbeaten streak. Goes to show that sometimes you need new blood.” He also didn’t rule out the possibility of a Revs-LAFC MLS Cup final.
Of course, a lot has to happen between now and November for that prediction to come true. For now, Nguyen is just grateful to spend a moment with Revs fans after his 2018 exit.
“It was great to see after the game they still wanted me to come over there and say what’s up,” Nguyen said. “There’s a lot of history that happened here with my time, and there’s a lot of great times. To see that they embraced me after the game like that meant a lot. It goes to show I have love back here, and I love that.”