“I had the phone and my girlfriend was next to me,” Nguyen said. “All she could hear was LAFC.”
When the call was over, the jumping and smiling began.
“Not knowing was the big thing, not knowing where the future lies,” said Nguyen Thursday night after his first training session with his new club. “That whole two months, I was just training, knowing that there were no plans for me with Brad [Friedel]. It was evident. Not knowing if this was going to be the rest of the year like this, it was a tough moment mentally, but the news came as a surprise, a good surprise.”
Of all the destinations in MLS, the league veteran found himself picked up by a team with a brand-new stadium, a state-of-the-art training center, and an impressive 5-2-0 start to its inaugural season, good enough for second place in the Western Conference.
“I haven’t seen the new stadium yet, but I saw [the training facility] for the first time today. This is top. This is as professional as it gets,” said Nguyen. “It makes me so happy to go to work every day.”
LAFC supporters were excited enough that a dozen showed up to greet Nguyen when he arrived at LAX airport on Wednesday.
“[The supporters] were super welcoming, not only [at LAX] but online as well,” he said. “The social support that I’ve gotten has been great.”
Coach Bob Bradley, who handed Nguyen his debut with the US national team back in 2007, was equally thrilled with the deal.
“Anyone who follows MLS knows there’s been a stalemate going on in New England in terms of Lee’s situation,” coach Bob Bradley said. “I’m sure every team has discussed Lee in the last six weeks.”
In securing his signature for $700,000 in toatal allocation money plus potential future add-ons – ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle reported that the Revolution received higher offers elsewhere but preferred to trade him out of their conference – LAFC got one of the league’s most consistent attackers for what they believe is below market value.
“He’s a very creative, dynamic, technically a special player who is dangerous around the goal,” said LAFC GM John Thorrington, who briefly played with Nguyen during Vancouver’s 2012 preseason before he was waived by the Canadian squad and picked up by New England. “He also provides versatility. He can play a number of positions [and] we love that flexibility.”
Under Bradley, Diomande averaged nearly a goal per game at Stabaek during the 2015 season, helping earn a third-place finish in the Norwegian top flight.
“[Diomande] came in motivated, worked hard for the team and was off the charts in terms of finishing,” Bradley said of the club’s newest signing.
Meanwhile, LAFC’s third Designated Player, Andre Horta, will not officially join LAFC until after the secondary transfer window opens on July 10, as he sees out the end of his loan stint at SC Braga, who are making a run for a UEFA Champions League berth in Portugal’s Primeira Liga.
Horta’s delayed arrival, as well as a need to cope with injuries and upcoming World Cup absences, has raised questions about LAFC’s attacking depth. But the club’s leadership believes their patient approach to roster-building has paid off just in time.
“A lot of people would say you want two at each position,” Bradley said. “We’ve got other guys that can play as strikers, but I think that’s where Dio’s at his best and it adds to our team in a really nice way.”
While “Dio” won’t arrive until after his immigration process is sorted out over the next couple weeks, Nguyen could feature as soon as Saturday against FC Dallas (3:55 pm ET | Univision — Full TV & streaming info).
“I have been training fully with the squad [in New England] doing everything the team did, just not playing on Saturdays,” Nguyen said of his fitness. “Who knows how much of a role I’m going to play this weekend, it’s up the coach, but I’ve been training. I’m ready to go.”