FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When Lee Nguyen felt the beginnings of a stuffy nose and sore throat on Friday night, he figured it was allergies. Not uncommon for spring in New England. He took some medicine and went to bed in hopes of sleeping it off.
No such luck.
Nguyen woke up on Saturday morning in bad shape. His original symptoms had worsened and he had the added misery of chills and body aches, so much so that he struggled to pull himself out of bed and put on clothes. The prospects of Nguyen suiting up for that afternoon’s meeting with D.C. United were slim.
“I really didn’t think I was going to be able to go when I woke up,” Nguyen said. “I was thinking that I wasn’t going to be able to play. But I got to the stadium and felt a little bit better once they gave me some medicine. Then once I got on the pitch warming up, that’s when I was like, ‘Alright, I think I can go.’”
Nguyen did play, soldiering through 55 minutes on the left wing before being replaced by Benny Feilhaber. He even found the strength to assist on Jose Moreno’s opening goal, clear Robbie Russell’s goal-bound header off the line and almost score a goal of his own late in the first half. It was a remarkable performance considering Nguyen was administered intravenous fluids shortly before kickoff.
On another day, maybe Nguyen would’ve taken the cautious approach and ruled himself out. But not with captain and central midfield lynchpin Shalrie Joseph suspended and Feilhaber still short of full match fitness. Nguyen knew his team needed him to step up.
“I know how much it meant to Jay (Heaps) and how much it meant to the team to try to get a win,” he said. “Knowing that our captain wasn’t in the game and Benny still wasn’t 100 percent, I wanted to go as long and as hard as I could to help the team out.”
After gutting through the first half, Nguyen had a conversation with Heaps at halftime about how much further he could continue. Nguyen was prepared to play however long was necessary, but Heaps told him to grind out 10 more minutes and they’d get Feilhaber onto the field for the closing stages.
“I felt fine,” Nguyen said of his 55-minute performance. “I was a little bit weak, but I was able to play through it. It really didn’t hit me until after (the game) when I got in the shower. That’s when it hit me again.”
“I grabbed Lee and hugged him (when he came off),” Heaps said. “I’ve never seen a player take an IV like he did and want to play.”
Nguyen was back out on the training field on Tuesday morning, but he’ll have ample time to regain his health before the Revs return to game action. A bye on the schedule comes at an opportune time for the Revs, who next face the New York Red Bulls on the road on April 28.
“It’s good to have this weekend off so people who are hurt can get healthy,” said Nguyen. “For me, I can take my time off and get healthy and rest.
“I feel a little bit better,” he said. “I’m starting to hit the downhill slope right now so it’s just trying to wait it out. But I owe a lot to the doctors and (athletic) trainers because without them on Saturday, there’s no way I would’ve been on that field.”