Lee Nguyen. Who the heck are you and where did you come from?
Have you ever been watching a soccer match and think “Where in the heck did that guy come from?” Well, that was me when it came to Lee Nguyen. I’ve heard off him, but it got me wondering why all of a sudden he became good. So I did a little research and this is what I found.
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Lee Nguyen was born on October 7, 1986 in Richardson, Texas. He played soccer at Plano East Senior High School where he was named the 2005 National Gatorade Boys Soccer High School Player of the Year. He played one year of college soccer at Indiana University where he was selected as 2005 National Freshman of the Year by Soccer America and Soccer Times. He scored five goals and had 12 assists in 22 appearances for the Hoosiers.
After his one season with Indiana, Nguyen signed a three and a half-year contract with PSV Eindhoven of the Eredivisie in February of 2006. However, after just two appearances, Nguyen decided to make a move for more playing time. He ended up signing with Danish Superliga club Randers FC. He made 23 appearances in a little over two years’ time.
Nguyen was looking to remain in Europe, but decided a change in scenery would be for the best. He received a lucrative contract offer from V.League 1 club Hoàng Anh Gia Lai in January of 2009.
Nguyen became the Vietnamese league’s first American player when he signed with Hoàng Anh Gia Lai on January 17, 2009. He scored 13 goals and 16 assists in 24 appearances in all competitions for the club in 2009. A year later he moved Becamex Binh Duong but injuries limited his playing time as he scored only one goal in five appearances over a year and a half.
He may have gotten a big contract to move to the V.League, but by doing so, he all but took himself out of the United States Men’s National Team picture at the young age of 23.
Even though he received another large contract offer, Nguyen decided to return to the United States. He signed a multi-year deal with MLS in December of 2011. He was allocated to the Vancouver Whitecaps after a weighted lottery, but only made three pre-season appearances and was waived by the team.
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In March of 2012, the New England Revolution selected Nguyen with the second overall pick in the MLS Waiver Draft. In his first season with the Revolution, Nguyen made 30 appearances which included 27 starts. He finished with five goals and his second goal of the season came against the Whitecaps. His 2013 season saw him score four goals to go along with seven assists.
Nguyen’s 2014 season was his best yet. He finished the season with 18 goals and five assists. He was a finalist for MLS MVP that was eventually won by Robbie Keane of the Los Angeles Galaxy. Nguyen accounted for a number of game-winning goals throughout the season and only got better with the addition of USMNT star Jermaine Jones. To top everything off, Nguyen got an International call-up from Jurgen Klinsmann to play against Ireland and Colombia. It was his first call-up in seven years.
I’d say the biggest mistake out of all of this was the Whitecaps letting him go. The Revolution lucked out and took a gamble on a player that didn’t really a pedigree of scoring against the best competition. No disrespect to the V.League, but I’m sure pretty much anyone could score in that league.
Nguyen made the correct move coming back to MLS and the Whitecaps made a mistake in waiving him. I expect to see him take the Revolution deep in the playoffs for years to come.