After it became public that Lee Nguyen is not happy with his current New England Revolution contract, the 2014 league MVP finalist answered questions about the situation at training on Wednesday.
Brian O'Connell from New England Soccer Today (who has been all over this story) got the full rundown from Nguyen and another source, painting a pretty bleak picture of the situation and making some startling revelations concerning the team's salary structure.
...when he compared his current salary against those of his fellow teammates earlier this year, what he discovered unsettled him.
Coming off a year in which he set the single-season scoring record in MLS for pure midfielders with 18 goals and spurred the Revolution to their first MLS Cup appearance in seven years, Nguyen found out that his salary wasn't among the top-five on the squad.
It would be one thing if Nguyen was demanding to be the highest-paid player on the team, which is obviously Jermaine Jones. It is quite another to try and think of four other players who deserve to be paid more than a guy who not only gave the team 18 goals and five assists last season, but has contributed 27 goals and 14 assists in total since 2012.
O'Connell's source confirmed that Lee is actually the eighth-highest paid Rev. That definitely shines a different light on things when Nguyen comments that he feels "undervalued."
It's been said already, but this is not a good position for Nguyen to be in, even though he is probably right in feeling he deserves a raise. He just signed a four-year deal, and he got a new contract after each of his first two seasons. The club holds all the power and leverage.
However, that doesn't mean the club shouldn't budge and at least bring Nguyen to the table to discuss a new deal. Jermaine Jones may be the marquee designated player, but Lee Nguyen is the talisman and the figurehead for this team. Much of the blueprint for winning games is "win the ball, get it to Lee," and it's one of the most effective routes to victory in MLS. This isn't a Jeff Larentowicz or even a Marko Perovic, where the club can ignore his wishes and then let him walk without really taking much of a hit.
Last season, New England went through a somewhat similar situation with Jose Goncalves, who had expected a bigger contract from the Revs after they bought him from FC Sion. In the end, both parties worked it out and Goncalves went on to captain the side in the MLS Cup Final. There's no reason to think the same cannot happen here.