FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Every tackle forced Lee Nguyen to brace himself accordingly for the accompanying blow. There was an injury to protect. He had to do everything he could to ensure he could remain on the field for as long as possible.
It wasn't an easy battle to stave off the effects of a right shoulder injury that had lingered for the better part of two years. By the middle of the season, Nguyen saw his shoulder pop out and pop back in on a fairly routine basis during New England Revolution training sessions. It even came out twice during games this season. He played through the pain and soldiered through the lingering soreness to take his usual place in the lineup.
But as autumn approached and the Revs slipped out of the postseason picture, Nguyen understood he needed to resolve the issue. A series of discussions with New England head coach Jay Heaps and the medical staff determined the optimal date – not too soon, but soon enough to ensure he would recover in time for the start of preseason – to end his season. He ultimately underwent extensive surgery on his troublesome shoulder in late September.
“That was the goal, talking to Jay,” Nguyen told MLSsoccer.com last week. “We knew we were out of the playoffs. This is something they've wanted me to get done for awhile. We wanted to see how many games we can fit in before we would push it into preseason. The timing we had was perfect. I should be 100 percent by preseason.”
Plenty of work remains between now and then to ensure Nguyen reaches full fitness when the Revs report to training camp in mid-January. The recovery process is expected to take four months from the date of the surgery. It is a slow road that involves plenty of cardiovascular work and plenty of patience with the newly repaired shoulder.
Nguyen said he hopes to leave his sling soon and start to build up the strength in his shoulder over the next few months.
“I'm doing a lot of resistance training on the shoulder and the arm, basically trying to strengthen around it,” Nguyen said. “I'm not doing too much with the shoulder [right now]. I'm working my core and keeping my legs strong, so when I'm able to come back, I'm not too far behind.”
Forget about falling behind. Nguyen wants to come out ahead. He wants to step on the field next year knowing that his shoulder is strong enough to take a hit for the foreseeable future.
“It was a thing where I wanted to get it done so that I wouldn't have to think about that, having to brace myself and guard myself,” Nguyen said. “I think now – going forward, getting this thing done and getting stronger – it will be better.”