TUCSON, Ariz. – Lee Nguyen will be much closer to goal in 2017, and that’s just the way he likes it.
A vital part of New England’s attack for the better part of five seasons, Nguyen has made his mark as one of Major League Soccer’s most effective playmakers, setting up teammates for scoring opportunities and adding a few opportunistic tallies of his own.
Outside of a breakthrough 2014 season, however (18 goals and 5 assists), putting the ball in the back of the net has not been his primary role. But that looks to be changing.
After a 2-0 preseason win over the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, Nguyen told MLSsoccer.com that he’s pleased with the shift.
“It’s great, I mean this obviously gives me a chance to be more around the box which is where I like to be, and where I feel like I’m most dangerous,” he said. “So that gives me the opportunity to get the ball in the areas where I feel like I can be most effective.”
As Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle noted in his analysis of New England's roster, Agudelo can rotate into the front line, and the Revolution attackers aim to take full advantage of that versatility.
“Going in from last year, I think … the last 11 or 12 games, we moved into that diamond formation,” said midfielder Kelyn Rowe. “We had Kei and Lee and Juan kind of interchanging within that; you throw Teal [Bunbury] in the mix as well. Those guys can interchange and score goals and make things happen. You add Diego [Fagundez], you add myself and Scott Caldwell who can play balls in. It just creates so much.”
In 21 appearances last season after his midseason trade from Columbus, Kamara netted seven times for the Revs, sharing the team lead with Agudelo. Like Nguyen, the big striker is happy with the production of the front three this preseason.
“Yeah, I mean, the goals are coming,” he said. “Obviously you can see the connection is there. Those guys have been together for a while, and they have a great connection, and we’re scoring goals.”
The Kamara-Nguyen-Agudelo trio tallied nine goals and nine assists in seven preseason matches, despite Agudelo missing four matches while on US national team duty. In a 6-2 drubbing of Sporting Kansas City last Wednesday, Agudelo and Nguyen each bagged a pair of goals, while Nguyen and Kamara each added two assists.
“As long as we continue to create chances,” said head coach Jay Heaps, “they’re going to get their goals.”
New England open the 2017 regular season at Colorado on Saturday (6 pm ET, MLS LIVE).