Stejskal: Market size not the reason Nguyen doesn't get enough attention

New England Revolution -- Celebrate Goal -- Lee Nguyen

Lee Nguyen became the first MLS player to hit the 10-goal, 10-assist mark in 2017 on Saturday, recording his 10th goal and 15th assist of the season after coming on as a second-half sub to power the New England Revolution to a surprising 2-1 home win over Toronto FC.

Becoming the first member of the 2017 10/10 club is just the latest milestone in a remarkable six-year run for Nguyen. Since moving to MLS and joining the New England Revolution in 2012, the attacking midfielder has recorded 50 goals and 49 assists in 188 regular season appearances. With his next assist, he’ll become just the 19th player in MLS history to record at least 50 goals and 50 assists in his career, and will join Portland’s Diego Valeri and DallasJavier Morales as one of three active players in that select group.

Though Nguyen has been a star in New England, particularly over the last four seasons, he doesn’t generate the sort of publicity given to some of his statistical peers around the league.

That lack of love hasn’t been lost on Revs defender Chris Tierney.

“He’s a fantastic player, there’s no two ways about it,” Tierney said after Saturday’s match. “I think if we were playing in a bigger market in this league, I think he’d be up there in All-Star and MVP voting. He’s that important and quality of a player, so to see him continue to play so well is great for us.”

I’m not going to argue that Nguyen would receive more recognition if he played in a higher-profile market. If the 30-year-old was in Seattle, New York, Toronto or Atlanta, I don’t think there’s much doubt that he’d get more pub, and perhaps even a few more national team looks.

Market size, however, doesn’t have much to do with his lack of love. Boston is the ninth largest TV market in the US – it’s not exactly a backwater. This is about national attention. Right or wrong, how much an MLS team gets is determined by how well they perform, how many big names they have on the roster and how many fans – preferably of the passionate variety – are in their stadium each week. Market size plays a role, but I’d argue it’s a relatively distant fourth on the list.

By those metrics, it’s no surprise that New England and Nguyen regularly get overlooked. The Revs have largely struggled on the field since making MLS Cup in 2014, a downturn that culminated with their decision to fire head coach Jay Heaps earlier this month. Their roster doesn’t have anyone with near the name recognition of David Villa, Clint Dempsey, Giovani dos Santos or Michael Bradley. And while attendance seems to be growing at Gillette Stadium, New England aren’t packing out the park like comparable markets Atlanta and Seattle or smaller markets like Portland or Kansas City, both of which get significantly more national attention than the Revs.

Does Nguyen deserve more attention? No doubt. He’s an elite MLS attacking midfielder, has the second most assists in the league and is the best player on his team. Just don’t mistake market size as the reason why he flies under the radar.