How well did Lee Nguyen play last night? Well enough that the much awaited home debut of newly signed Designated Player and World Cup hero Jermaine Jones was, at best, the third biggest story of the night.
Nguyen scored two more of his trademark (more on that in a minute) goals, giving him 12 (6 of them game winners) for the season (most by any midfielder) and tying him with the Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes for the most by an American player in MLS. All of this while continuing to provide opportunities for other players on the Revolution and defending like his life depended on it even though he now has Jermaine Jones to take up some of that slack for him.
I am going to counsel those pushing Nguyen’s name for league MVP to prepare themselves to be disappointed. As deserving as he may be, he plays for an unfashionable club (I’m a supporter, but that doesn’t make that any less true) in a smaller market, and he is not a “marquee” name. This is, after all, a player who didn’t even make the All-Star team as a reserve despite the fact that he was playing just as well now as he was then.
However, justice should be done to Nguyen by USMNT national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann who, I believe, simply can’t continue to ignore Nguyen’s play this year. I could understand Klinsmann passing him over if he was too old, but can certainly help the U.S. at the CONCACAF Gold Cup next year, the Copa America in 2016 (which despite being the premier competition for South American countries is being held in the US and in which the USMNT has been invited to play), and he’d still only be 31 years old in the summer of 2018 when the U.S., presumably, will be playing in the World Cup in Russia.
Now, about those “trademark” goals for Lee Nguyen. As New England television analyst Paul Mariner has pointed out numerous times in recent weeks, every club in MLS watches Nguyen score his goals in the same way every week and they still can stop him. Nguyen positions himself somewhere across the top of the “D”, waits for a pass from the wing (most likely from Kelyn Rowe or Daigo Kobayashi), takes a touch or two to set himself up, and then buries the ball inside one of the posts. Here’s the first one:
Nguyen steals a slack pass from SKC, drops it back to Kobayashi, Kobayashi knocks it out to Rowe on the wing, Rowe passes it to Nguyen in the middle, one touch to set up, top corner. Goal.
Here’s the second:
Again, Nguyen breaks up the play himself, plays a given-and-go with Patrick Mullins and hits it across the goal, inside the bottom of the left post, with the outside of his right foot. Seriously?
And as I (and Paul Mariner) will point out, every club that has New England coming up on their schedule knows where he likes to set up, knows where he gets his service, knows what he will do when he gets the ball, and still, here he is with 12 goals. Super impressive.
In case you were wondering, Jermaine Jones played the first half in his home debut, was mainly at fault for the SKC goal, but rebounded well, dished out a few crunching tackles that he got away with because he’s “Jermaine Jones” (and I’m TOTALLY okay with that), and he delivered a pinpoint looping cross to Teal Bunbury, who scored the Revolution’s first goal in the 45th minute.
Chicago is up next!