FOXBOROUGH — MLS is presenting the most valuable player award in Los Angeles Wednesday and Lee Nguyen is not going to be there. On merit, Nguyen deserved to be among the three finalists for the award. But on reputation and salary, Nguyen is a major underdog against the LA Galaxy’s Robbie Keane and the Seattle Sounders’ Obafemi Martins.
But this is just the beginning of the attention and honors bound for Nguyen. On Tuesday, Nguyen was named to the league’s Best XI team. On Sunday, Nguyen will be leading the Revolution against the Los Angeles Galaxy in the MLS Cup final at the StubHub Center. And Nguyen will be returning to Los Angeles for national team training camp next month, thanks to his brief, but impressive, performance in a 2-1 loss to Colombia in November.
Nguyen has emerged as the league’s most productive midfielder, scoring 18 goals, plus two in the playoffs. He could be attracting interest from European clubs, though it is unlikely the Revolution will let him go, unless the offer is in the many millions of dollars. Nguyen has two years remaining on a contract worth $193,750 annually, according to the MLS Players Union, making him among the best bargains in the league. And he will be especially valuable to the Revolution should the team win the MLS Cup, which would qualify it for CONCACAF Champions League play next year.
“From the minute he got here, I knew he was special,’’ Revolution coach Jay Heaps said of Nguyen on Tuesday. “It’s not only what he’s doing on the front side of the ball but it’s what he’s doing off the ball, the work rate.’’
Nguyen has been a driving force in Heaps’ 4-1-4-1 formation. But the Revolution were in the doldrums before adding Jermaine Jones in late August. Jones bolstered Nguyen’s support in midfield. But another key to Nguyen’s production has been the play of Charlie Davies, whose hold-up ability and speedy runs at opposing defenses has opened space in the attack.
In fact, Nguyen has scored 13 goals in 21 games with Davies on the field.
Davies and Nguyen performed together on US junior teams, teaming briefly on the full national team in 2007.
“We first met on the U18s,’’ Nguyen recalled of Davies. “We would always make fun; I would say we need to play together, we can do so much damage, with your pace. So, ironic it’s happening now.’’
Davies made his first start at Dallas July 19 and did not score his first goal until an Aug. 2 visit to New York. Since that 2-1 loss to the Red Bulls, the Revolution have compiled a 12-1-3 record.
“We’re confident,’’ Nguyen said. “No matter where we go and play, we’re just going to play our game, knowing that the style we play is effective and has been effective.
“So, we’ve got to focus on that. It’s one game, we don’t a home series to fall back on, so it’s going to be interesting to see.’’
The Revolution have capitalized on playing on Gillette Stadium’s synthetic surface (they have an 8-0-2 home record since July 30). But Nguyen said the Revolution are looking forward to performing on an expansive, well-groomed field.
“It helps us,’’ Nguyen said. “We both have similar styles, we want to keep the ball, we want to play attacking football. It will be a fun game to watch. It’s going to be open, attacking football.’’
As for going against Landon Donovan in his farewell game for the Galaxy?
“It’s going to be an honor to play against him one last time,’’ Nguyen said “LA’s probably one of the strongest teams going forward with their front three – Robbie, (Gyasi) Zardes and Landon can hurt you so many ways. If we can neutralize those guys, then it’s a matter of how well they can defend us.’’