FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Lee Nguyen picked up his 10th helper of the season last weekend in Chicago, marking the third straight year the veteran midfielder has reached double digits in assists.
But this year, Nguyen hit the 10-assist mark with still 12 games remaining, putting him on pace to shatter his career high after topping out at 10 assists in both 2015 and 2016. The 30-year-old playmaker is currently tied for second in the league in the category, behind only Sacha Kljestan (12).
Nguyen’s increased assist total this season is due in part to his set-piece prowess, as he’s tied for first in the league with four assists from dead-ball situations. But he’s also been the Revs’ primary creator from open play, even as teams continue to put an increased focus on slowing him down.
“He’s been tremendous getting in dangerous spots and being able to pick guys out,” Scott Caldwell said of Nguyen. “We know we’ve got to try to find him the ball in those spots and just hope that he continues to be as good as he has been.”
Knowing that opponents often key on Nguyen, the Revs have kept teams guessing by using him in a variety of spots throughout their front four, including on both wings, as a forward, and as a withdrawn playmaker.
“Credit to him, he’s found good spots no matter where he is,” said Kelyn Rowe. “He’s very good at going towards the back line when they’re on their heels. If we can find him with those balls, he’s going to pick teams apart, and that’s when we’re dangerous.”
“He’s seeing the game really well right now,” added head coach Jay Heaps. “We’re being creative with his starting point, trying to maneuver him around the field so teams can’t totally game plan against him.”
The rotation has worked for Nguyen, who continues to have the freedom to roam and find pockets of space regardless of his starting points within the formation. The result has been Nguyen finding his form as a creative force, tied for second in the league in chances created (66).
“Lee’s really putting in a good performance in trying to be creative,” said Heaps. “He’s not being just a shoot-first guy; he’s being a creative guy, and that’s important.”