FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Lee Nguyen harbored no doubts as he stepped up to the penalty spot for a second time on the night. He simply could not afford them in this situation, though he could have nursed a few as he approached the decisive moment in New England's 2-1 victory over D.C. United.
United goalkeeper Bill Hamid staked out the critical mental advantage in this battle by stopping Nguyen's initial attempt after 57 minutes. Nguyen opted for a low shot to Hamid's right, but he recognized his mistake before Hamid prevented him from notching the equalizer.
“I was planning on going that side and he read it early,” Nguyen told MLSsoccer.com. “Right in my mind, right in my half swing, I knew. I was like, 'Crap.' I couldn't change it in time.”
Diego Fagundez blunted the impact of Hamid's save by registering the equalizer moments later to set up a grandstand finish. New England pushed forward with numbers against the entrenched United rearguard, and Nguyen drew his second penalty of the night when Lewis Neal felled him on the right edge of the penalty area with eight minutes to play.
The decision normally would have prompted some discussion about who should take the second penalty in the wake of the earlier miss, but Nguyen dispelled any and all doubt by grabbing the ball and shouldering the duties once more.
“I don't think he would have let anyone [else] take that PK,” Fagundez said.
Nguyen's insistence placed him in a scenario where he needed to devise a profitable way forward at the second attempt. He received some sage advice from Revolution defender Chris Tierney as he pondered his approach to the potential game-winning kick.
“I knew it was a mind game after that,” Nguyen said. “He read the first one. I was thinking about going down the middle after that. It was just great to have the confidence of my teammates and the coaching staff. Chris was confirming [it], [saying], 'Dude, think about going down the middle.' He had confidence in going down the middle. I was like, alright. That was all I needed. After that, phew.”
The sigh of relief surged through Nguyen and his Revolution teammates after a laborious night against a resolute opponent. The end product, however, dispelled any lingering issues and ensured the Revs maintained their playoff push with maximum points at home.