FRISCO, Tex. — Although FC Dallas features several Homegrown players who grew up in the Dallas area, they won't be the only ones with a hometown sentiment when Tuesday’s US Open Cup final kicks off (10 pm ET, ESPN2, UDN | MLS LIVE in Canada).
New England Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen spent his youth growing up in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, graduating from nearby Plano East Senior High School before going off to Indiana for college and eventually starting his professional career a year later.
“Anytime you lift a cup it’s special, but be able to lift it here in front of your family and friends, it’s going to be very exciting,” Nguyen said. “We’ll all be hoping to do that, because I know all the guys I’ve been fighting with for the past four, five years, we all want a trophy really bad too. So I know this would be a special one for all of us.”
Revolution coach Jay Heaps jokingly asked Nguyen how many tickets he’s been able to provide to hometown friends and family, and his response, with a chuckle, was “not enough.”
Nguyen told MLSsoccer.com that he’s expecting hundreds of people to come out to Toyota Stadium on Tuesday night, ranging from family and high school friends to even a contingent of the local Vietnamese population.
And make no mistake — he has a large local cheering brigade. Nguyen’s graduating senior class from Plano East Senior High consisted of more than 1,200 people, many of whom supported him in a Facebook group for his high school class reunion when he was nominated for an ESPY a year ago as the top MLS player.
But he isn’t the only one who used to live just minutes from Toyota Stadium. FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta also grew up in Plano. And even though the two are far enough apart in age (Nguyen is 29, Acosta 21) that they never played each other in a high school rivalry, they will clash on the field Tuesday night – something Acosta can’t wait to do.
“It’s huge,” Acosta said of playing for a championship where he grew up. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to go out there and play in front of my family and friends. It’s a big opportunity for me. I’m very excited to do something for my hometown. ... At this moment, I just have to cherish it.”
For Acosta and the rest of FC Dallas’ Homegrown players, this will be their first opportunity to hoist a cup in a championship game of any kind at the professional level.
Nguyen, on the other hand, played in the 2014 MLS Cup Final, logging more than 90 minutes in a 2-1 extra-time loss to the LA Galaxy.
The experience of being so close and not bringing a championship home was humbling to Nguyen — and one he hopes to erase with an Open Cup title.
“Being to a Cup final, you realize how hard it is to get to this position. You’ve got to cherish the moment,” Nguyen said. “This is one of the tournaments we had a goal at the beginning of the year wanting to win. We fought so hard, our squad. It’s a deep squad, so everyone put together the effort into getting here, and now we know we’re that much closer to making that goal a reality.”