FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Lee Nguyen felt like he had something to prove on Saturday night.
He proved it.
Two months after being waived by Vancouver Whitecaps FC – essentially deemed expendable by the offensively stacked second-year club – Nguyen made his former team pay with two goals and one assist as the New England Revolution claimed a comprehensive 4-1 win at Gillette Stadium.
“I wouldn’t say (it was) revenge,” Nguyen said. “I’m just relieved. I’m just happy we got the win. The way it ended up, I couldn’t have dreamt it any better. I’m just glad for my teammates. We worked hard and we didn’t give up after (conceding) that first goal. It was a great win.”
While Nguyen seemed content to let bygones be bygones, there’s no question the 25-year-old midfielder was spurred on by an extra edge against his former teammates. Revolution head coach Jay Heaps was well aware of the situation in the buildup to the match and did his best to tap into Nguyen’s additional motivation.
“This week, we had a quiet little talk with him and said, ‘Hey, this is a good moment for you. You’re going to play against your former team,’” said Heaps. “As a former player who played against my former team, the Miami Fusion, a few times, there is something there when someone says you’re expendable or they want to move on without you.
“(The Whitecaps) are a heck of a team,” Heaps added. “I think maybe Lee had a little something to show, but it was not against (Vancouver head coach) Martin Rennie. It was not against the organization. It was just one of those where you feel a little bit slighted and he showed it tonight.”
Nguyen’s first goal was an opportunistic finish, picking up the scraps in the box after Blake Brettschneider’s initial volley was blocked. The skill truly began to show in the 24th minute when his deft pass teed up Saer Sène for what proved to be the game-winning goal.
But the best was saved for last as Nguyen capped off the scoring with a breathtaking goal in the 72nd minute, settling the ball near the corner of the box before unleashing a wicked drive into the far upper corner.
“Chris (Tierney) threw me a perfect ball, just into space,” said Nguyen. “I took a touch and I just wanted to take a shot and put it in the corner. That’s just how it worked out.”
Nguyen’s humble response was typical of the soft-spoken Texan, as were the classy postgame comments from Rennie about his former player.
“Well done to Lee Nguyen, fantastic tonight,” said Rennie. “He showed the difference between the highs and lows in soccer. A few weeks ago, the low of not being wanted by a club, and the high tonight, of being, I’m sure, man of the match, winning the game, scoring two goals and getting an assist. And even more importantly for him, against the team that didn’t keep him, so well done to him tonight.”