Nguyen salutes Revolution supporters in bittersweet return to Gillette Stadium

Lee Nguyen vs. New York City FC (2020, Original)

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The last time Lee Nguyen had stepped onto the Gillette Stadium field he’d been wearing the black and gold of LAFC, receiving a rapturous round of applause from the New England Revolution faithful upon his return as an opponent last August.

It was a bit of a different scene as he made his return in Revolution colors on Saturday afternoon, playing without fans in the stands because of circumstances surrounding COVID-19. Nguyen still felt the nostalgia of a homecoming in his first game in Foxborough as a member of the Revs since October 2017, but the warm embrace of the supporters was most certainly missed.

“It was great to be back,” Nguyen said after the Revs battled New York City FC to a 0-0 draw. “I just wish obviously I was able to be back in front of the fans. That’s the best part about playing football here, being at Gillette Stadium and playing in front of the fans and in front of The Fort. It was a little sucky not to have our fans there supporting us, but we know they’re out there watching us and supporting from afar.

“I just wish we could’ve gotten the three points.”

Nguyen did what he could to help the Revs make the breakthrough on Saturday, playing 89 minutes – his longest run-out in almost a year – and completing 39 of his 47 passes, including setting up a key chance for Teal Bunbury in the first half.

“He’s composed on the ball,” head coach Bruce Arena said of Nguyen. “Obviously, he is a good passer. It allows our players to get forward. He’s a good player – good, experienced player. He allows us to have a little bit of rhythm in the attack.”

Saturday marked Nguyen’s first start in 2020, having combined to play 106 minutes total in six substitute appearances prior for both the Revs and Inter Miami CF. He admitted that he hadn’t expected to play almost the full match against NYCFC, but he felt strong even as the game approached the late stages.

“I felt great,” Nguyen said. “The staff have done a great job in trying to manage my load throughout this week and trying to be ready for this game. I felt better than what we expected going into it so it was good to get those minutes underneath me.

“It was great to play with the guys again. Lots of familiar faces, so it wasn’t too bad picking up right where I left off. We’ve got a lot of great guys on this team and when you’ve got great footballers around you, it’s easy to play.”

Nguyen will now try to make a quick recovery ahead of Wednesday’s showdown with the Montreal Impact at Gillette Stadium, Arena noting that he’d need to monitor Nguyen’s fitness in the coming days as he assesses his availability for that midweek match.

“Over the next couple days, we’ll see how our players recover and then make some decisions based on that,” said Arena.