CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – A familiar face returned to the fold as the New England Revolution kicked off a 10-day preseason training trip at Grande Sports World on Tuesday morning.
Lee Nguyen, sidelined for the final four games of the 2012 season following shoulder surgery, joined his teammates for a morning jog as he nears a full return to action. Although he’ll be limited to non-contact exercises for another couple weeks, the 26-year-old midfielder finally feels healthy and is eager for a return to normalcy.
“It feels great,” Nguyen said of his right shoulder. “Any time you’re out for such a (long) period of time, you’re always anxious to get back on (the field). It feels good to start preseason with the guys, get back in the locker room and get back in the thick of things.”
Nguyen spent the majority of his offseason in Foxborough working with the athletic training staff and Nick Downing, the club’s strength and conditioning coach, returning home to Texas only for the holidays. Such diligent attention to his rehab kept Nguyen on track with the predicted recovery timetable of four months, while it also kept him in shape during a lengthy layoff.
In a matter of weeks Nguyen will return to full training – likely wearing a brace at first – and the Revolution’s 2012 Team MVP is confident he’ll feel more at ease on the field, relieved of the burden he carried last season when he was constantly wary of potential damage from falling on his shoulder.
“It’s going to be great, being able to go left and right and not thinking about getting hit from my right side,” said Nguyen. “It’ll be one less thing to worry about.”
Back at full strength, Nguyen’s focus will shift to building upon his breakout 2012 campaign in which he scored five goals and added a pair of assists while helping drive the Revolution’s attack. Individual performances are merely pieces of the puzzle in the team’s overall goal, however, and the Revs have their sights set on a return to the postseason for the first time since 2009.
“You’re always looking to improve individually, but I think this team has high expectations,” said Nguyen. “Everybody’s motivated and determined to do better than we did last year. We’re excited to get started with preseason. We’ve got a new group of guys here and I think they’re going to improve our team big time. We’re definitely very hopeful.”