FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Lee Nguyen’s standout first MLS season came to an abrupt end on Monday afternoon when it was announced that the dynamic midfielder had undergone surgery to correct chronic instability in his right shoulder.
The procedure is expected to sideline Nguyen for approximately four months, putting his expected return date in the neighborhood of mid-January when the Revs will likely report for the 2013 preseason. It’s that timetable which prompted both player and club to opt for the surgery now rather than wait until the offseason, when the recovery time likely would’ve extended into late February.
“It was talked about with the doctors, with the staff and with the general managers just to make sure we were doing right by the player,” said head coach Jay Heaps. “The player had a lot of say in where he sees his career going and needing the surgery, and this was really the right time to do it.”
Nguyen played through pain for much of the season and the condition was often aggravated by rough treatment from opposing players – he suffered 49 fouls – prompting Heaps to lobby the referees for protection for one of his most skilled playmakers.
“With Lee, this was something that started to get a little bit worse as the year went on,” said Heaps. “He’s had a little bit of a history of the shoulder kind of coming out and I think he took a couple hard whacks this year.
“That’s why when we wanted the referees to protect him a little bit, we had a little bit more emphasis on it. I talked to each ref before the game saying, ‘Look, you need to protect this player.’ Part of it was because every time he got whacked, his shoulder would come out of its socket. But he showed huge toughness.”
Based purely on his performances, it would’ve been almost impossible to guess Nguyen was carrying an injury through much of his first MLS season. The 25-year-old native Texan – capped three times by the U.S. National Team back in 2007 – registered five goals and two assists in 30 appearances (27 starts) as he became both a fan favorite and a fixture in the Revolution’s starting lineup.
“He’s a special player,” said Heaps. “He’s a player who receives the ball under any type of pressure – two, three guys on him – and he took a beating this year. He got whacked three or four times every game we played. I think he created quite a bit and he’s someone we really want to rely on going forward.”