FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It’s been said that statistics don’t lie, and the statistics say that Lee Nguyen has been the most dangerous chance creator on one of Major League Soccer’s most prolific attacking teams through the first three months of the 2017 season.
Through 11 games the Revs have created 103 chances according to Opta, good for sixth in MLS and just 11 back of the league-leading San Jose Earthquakes in that category. What’s more, 21 of those have been classified as “big chances,” tied for tops in the league with Columbus and Minnesota.
Of those 21 “big chances,” Nguyen has created six, tied for 10th in MLS, while he’s created 28 chances total, second-most in the league behind the New York Red Bulls’ Sacha Kljestan.
Perhaps Nguyen’s best performance came this past Saturday night when he registered one goal and two assists in the Revolution’s 4-0 romp over Real Salt Lake.
“Those games are fun because I’m able to get more touches on the ball,” Nguyen said. “We were able to keep possession and those were the ones where we’re able to keep our movements fluid, because we were able to possess the ball, move it left to right and we were able to find those gaps between the lines.”
Nguyen hasn’t garnered as much press as teammates Juan Agudelo and Diego Fagundez through the first third of the 2017 season, but with five goals and four assists, he’s been directly involved in 50 percent of New England’s 18 goals this year, highest amongst Revs players.
With four helpers already, Nguyen is well on pace to hit double-digit assists for a third straight season.
“Lee has that freedom to move around, which is really good,” said Kei Kamara, who combined with Nguyen for a pair of goals against RSL. “It opens up space for a lot of people, and he has the vision to really look for players.
“He’s been part of this attacking four or five for a while, so he definitely pushes all the other guys around him.”
Nguyen at least partially credits this year’s success to that freedom he enjoys in the Revolution’s free-flowing attack. The 30-year-old maestro has alternated between starting as a second striker and a playmaking midfielder this season, taking advantage of particular matchups on each occasion.
But regardless of where Nguyen lines up, head coach Jay Heaps has been careful not to limit his role, always providing the liberty to roam throughout the attacking third of the field.
“Each time we move him around, it’s always about finding the best place for him to attack the opposing team,” Heaps said. “Lee is an intuitive player out there, so there’s a part of the game that he senses, and you can’t tie him too closely to a position because he needs to be able to be free out there.
“When he’s at his best, he’s finding the gaps, but he’s also finding space wide. This year he’s been really good at not just scoring goals, but also creating goals for us.”
Nguyen’s fluid movement naturally makes him more difficult to defend, and the entire New England attack’s ability to interchange freely has set Nguyen up for success.
“It’s given the opponents a lot of different looks,” said Nguyen. “They’re going to have to plan for different types of formations and personnel. There are a lot of different movements when you’re playing the No. 10 or when you’re playing the second forward.
“It’s been good for me. I’m comfortable in both roles, but I always like to be higher up the pitch, so this gives me the ability to interchange.”