TUCSON, Ariz. – The New England Revolution considered pursuing Lee Nguyen when the former U.S. National Team midfielder signed with Major League Soccer and was entered into a weighted lottery last December, but the 25-year-old ultimately landed north of the border with Vancouver Whitecaps FC.
Nguyen’s journey to the Pacific Northwest was brief, however, as the Whitecaps waived the native Texan on Thursday, paving the way for the Revs to acquire his services through the Waiver Draft on Friday afternoon.
Considering Nguyen’s pedigree – his first professional club was Dutch powerhouse PSV Eindhoven – and early reports out of Vancouver which indicated a strong preseason showing with the Whitecaps, the Revs were pleasantly surprised when Nguyen’s name showed up on the waiver wire.
“We were a little shocked to see his availability,” admitted Revolution head coach Jay Heaps. “You want to do your due diligence and make sure there wasn’t a reason [he was waived] or there wasn’t anything that was blaring. We did a little bit of reconnaissance and found out that it was just a matter of a numbers crunch up there in Vancouver. So we want to make sure that we give him an opportunity to succeed.”
It’s been a whirlwind 24 hours for Nguyen, who flew back to Vancouver from the Whitecaps’ preseason camp in Orlando, Fla., on Friday afternoon. Upon deplaning, Nguyen checked his voicemail and learned he had a new home in New England.
“I really didn’t know who was going to pick me up,” said Nguyen. “I’m excited to join this club and help them have a better season than last season.”
Nguyen spent the past three years playing in the Vietnamese V-League, where he scored 14 goals in 29 appearances for Hoang Anh Gia (2009) and Becamex Binh Duong FC (2010-11), and became something of a national celebrity as the first American to play in the league. Prior to his much-publicized stint in Vietnam, Nguyen spent time with PSV Eindhoven (2006-08) and Danish club Randers FC (2008-09) after turning pro following one standout season at Indiana University.
“I think I’ve matured a lot since leaving college,” said Nguyen. “I guess I’ve been pro now for five, six years and it’s just about having a lot more experience, playing under a lot of different coaches and formations and being able to see a lot of different styles of play all over the world.
“I’ve gained a lot of experience and I’m looking forward to coming back and playing in MLS now,” he added. “This is a new style and a new type of play, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Nguyen is also looking forward to linking up with former teammate Benny Feilhaber, whom he played alongside with both the U.S. Under-20 and U.S. National Teams.
“Benny’s a great player and I definitely look forward to playing with him,” Nguyen said. “I feel Benny’s got a good thing going. He’s got great vision and he knows the game very well. (I think) we’ll be able to click, so I’m excited about that.”
The Revs hope to have Nguyen in camp early next week when the team returns to Foxborough for final preparations ahead of next weekend’s season opener. At that point the work will begin in earnest to get Nguyen up to speed and assimilated with his new teammates, but Heaps doesn’t think his newest signing will have any difficulty adapting to the Revolution’s attack-minded approach.
“For us, in the style that we’re going to play and the way we want to play, we think his strengths will fit well,” said Heaps. “We just have to get him into camp, make sure that he’s continuing to train hard and make sure he doesn’t lose anything in fitness.”