Lee Nguyen said he wasn’t ready for the type of physical defense opponents played against him this season.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — If anyone in the Revolution locker room can speak to how different the 2015 season was from its predecessor, it’s midfielder Lee Nguyen.
A year ago, Nguyen was riding the high of a historic season, one in which he scored an MLS-record 18 goals for a pure midfielder, which helped the Revolution reach their first MLS Cup in seven years.
But things didn’t turn out quite as rosy for Nguyen in 2015.
As the club’s reigning goal-scoring king, it took nearly half the season for Nguyen to bag his first goal from the run of play, finishing the season with seven in total as opposing defenses routinely manhandled the creative midfielder.
“It was definitely more obvious this year than last year,” said Nguyen, who was fouled a team-high 80 times in 2015. “So it’s something that I have to mentally prepare for next season.”
But the fouls and physical play weren’t the only things that kept Nguyen from showcasing the form that made him a finalist for MVP consideration only a year before. In his view, a myriad of factors conspired against him 2015 — including the fact that star midfielder Jermaine Jones missed chunks of the season.
“It has to do with a lot,” Nguyen said. “The guys around you taking off the pressure around you, and having to find different pockets [was part of it].”
Nguyen also said he and his teammates could’ve been better about making real-time adjustments to throw off opposing defenses that were clamping down on him.
“Maybe [more] interchanging with other players, and trying to mix-and-match,” Nguyen said, “so they just can’t have one guy following you around the whole game.”
While Nguyen wasn’t nearly as prolific in the goal column as he was in 2014, that didn’t stop him from remaining an integral part of the offense this past season.
His team-high 10-assists marked the first time a Revolution player reached double-digits in that department since Steve Ralston racked up 14 in 2007. He also led the team in shots with 82, a surefire sign that Nguyen didn’t exactly turn gun-shy overnight.
“I think it went well, I think numbers-wise, I produced the same, goals and assists combined were about the same [as they were in 2014],” Nguyen said. “But for me, I would’ve taken all that back to get back to MLS Cup.”
Another thing that certainly didn’t go the way Nguyen wanted was his brief, early-season protest of his contract, which he signed a year prior. To voice his displeasure, he sat out a set of weekly training sessions leading up to the club’s clash against the New York Red Bulls on May 2. The move didn’t pay off, and Nguyen remains in search of a better deal.
“We’ll see,” Nguyen said when asked about getting a new deal. “It’s something that my agents and the front office will have to talk about.”
While Nguyen will leave that order of business to his agent, the creative midfielder is beside himself in the knowledge that he’ll have to wait another four months to play in a competitive match.
“I still wish we could be training, and preparing for the playoffs,” Nguyen said. “But it’s the postseason, and it happens, so we have a little time to unwind and get our minds ready for next season.”