FOXBORO — There have been few players with the cachet who have also had the production of Lee Nguyen while wearing the jersey of the New England Revolution.
Perhaps right up there with Taylor Twellman, Steve Ralston and Chris Tierney as being a factor on the field for New England, the 33-year-old Nguyen began his second tour of duty with the Revolution after the rights for the nine-year MLS veteran were acquired last week.
How much did Nguyen relish returning to the Revolution? He drove through the night from Miami to Foxboro and played his first match last weekend in Philadelphia, and is awaiting his Gillette Stadium 2020 debut Saturday afternoon (4:30 p.m.) against New York City FC.
“Everyone here who’s seen me knows my game,” Nguyen said of being released by Inter Miami and finding his way back to Foxboro. With Miami, Nguyen made five appearances, three in the MLS is Back Tournament, but played only sparingly, 92 minutes. “It was more that I wasn’t on the same page with the Inter coach, so that was frustrating to not be able to get playing time there. I feel like my skill sets are still a big use and can help at any time with any team.
“When Bruce (Arena, the Revolution coach) says we can use you, I jumped at that idea for sure. I feel like I have a lot left in the tank to give and I want to bring the (MLS) Cup to New England.”
Nguyen has appeared in 244 MLS matches over nine seasons, 192 of them with New England, which places him in the No. 10 spot all-time. Nguyen started his second tour of duty with the Revolution substituting for Kelyn Rowe in the 76th minute of the Philadelphia match, successfully completing all 11 of his passes over his 14 minutes of work.
“He (Arena) thinks I can really help this team, and so do I,” Nguyen said. “I’ve watched them last year and this year in the bubble and, like I said, this team has everything you need to get to the Cup, I feel I can help them in different ways.
“Everyone has seen my game and I feel like I can help facilitate and give chances to these guys up top while also being able to help with composure in possession and fluidity with our attack.”
Nguyen spent the 2019 season with Los Angeles, appearing in 23 matches with 11 starting spots, totaling four assists. Nguyen was traded to LA by New England in May of 2018 and started 20 of the 25 matches in which he appeared for LAFC that season.
Nguyen ranks No. 2 on the Revolution all-time list for match-winning goals, shots, and assists, and third in shots on goal and goals.
Nguyen is one of only three Revolution players (also Diego Fagundez and Ralston) to tally 40 goals and collect 40 assists as a Revolution player, being one shy of the first ever to achieve 50 goals and 50 assists.
During his first tenure in New England, Nguyen appeared in at least 30 matches during each of the 2012-’17 seasons.
“I think Bruce knew before he traded for me what I can bring to the team,” Nguyen said. “And with all the weapons on this team, I’m thrilled to be able to come and be a part of this system.”
Arena saw glimpses of some of the former greatness that Nguyen brought to New England. “You could see his experience and his quality on the field. We need to be smart about his minutes right now, but he looks like he’s going to be a good addition to our team.
“We’re going to be smart about this. We’re not going to make any bold predictions at this point about how he’s going to fit in. But I do believe he’s going to fit in and fit in well.
“His agent reached out to us a week or two ago. We had an interest and we were fortunate we were able to piece together a deal. He’s been a very good player in the league. I still think he has enough to help our roster. When I was in LA, I saw him play with LAFC and I still thought he was a very good player, and I still think he is.
“He’s a proven player in the league, he has a history of scoring goals, of being a playmaker – that’s something I think our team can certainly utilize.”
The Texas native was New England’s first pick, the second overall taken in the 2012 MLS Draft, and he became the club’s MVP that season, starting 27 matches and scoring five goals.
New England certainly needs more forward motion, having scored just 10 goals in 11 matches (3-3-5).
New York City FC is on a five-match (4-0-1) win streak, including a 2-0 decision over New England in early August. Moreover, NYCFC has allowed merely two goals during that span, having taken three shutouts while scoring eight goals.
“This is the club that took a chance on me when I came into the league,” Nguyen said. “I hoped, perhaps, because it gave me my first start to build something here. I had a lot of love for this club and I always have, even when I left. I always wished well for this club and followed them from afar.
“It was unfortunate the way we parted ways, but I’ve never lost love for this club.”