LOS ANGELES – As LAFC ready for their first-ever meeting with the New England Revolution — the two sides will square off Saturday night at Banc of California Stadium (10:30 pm ET | Full TV & Streaming Info) — one player in particular has been relishing the matchup, even if it hasn’t changed his preparations.
“For me, mentally and physically, I’m approaching it like every other week so that’s nothing changed but obviously it has a bit more meaning to me personally,” said Lee Nguyen following training on Wednesday.
The LAFC midfielder spent six full seasons with the Revs — including a breakout 2014 season that saw him lead the Eastern Conference side to the MLS Cup final — before moving to the expansion side on May 1 after not being included in any of New England manager Brad Friedel’s matchday squads to start the 2018 season.
Nguyen insists he still has great memories with his former club. To him, much of what will make Saturday’s contest special comes down to the number of familiar faces, family and friends — some of them former Revs teammates who Nguyen has kept in contact with since leaving New England — coming into town for the fixture.
But he also admits a win would mean something extra.
“For me it’s going to be business but at the same time, yeah, it’ll probably be a little bit sweeter if we get those three points,” he said.
Nguyen recognizes that whatever the personal feelings harbored on the visiting side, there’s an added urgency for the Revs too. They hover just outside the Eastern Conference playoff places.
“It’s a big game for them just as it was in New York City the game before us. They needed those three points. Every game for them is do-or-die so they’ll be going in with that mentality. This is going to be a playoff game for them, in their eyes. And for us it’s [about] trying to get to the top spot in the West and put us in a great position going into the postseason.”
Nguyen — who is now settled and happy in Los Angeles, enjoying his recent time off at the beach and golfing — is finding his groove in LAFC colors: scoring important goals for the club in July (vs. the Galaxy), August (vs. Colorado), and earlier this month (against Toronto).
And those timely notches are coming despite his playing in a deeper position than what he’s been accustomed to elsewhere in his career.
“I joked with Lee and I said, ‘In different moments in the past, the idea was when your team had the ball that you go and get it and try to make something happen and then when they’re mad at you they yell at you that you don’t work hard enough,’” LAFC manager Bob Bradley said of the former Revs talisman after practice Wednesday, alluding to the ways Nguyen’s role has changed in Los Angeles.
“For me there is way more to how a team plays and what Lee can do as a player than just stuff like that. We started out saying, ‘Can we help you? Can we push you?’ I think he’s responded great. He’s playing really well and hopefully we can keep pushing him in a good direction.”
Nguyen agrees with his coach and is feeling ready ahead of his old club’s visit.
“What I’ve been able to do with the staff here and the trainers, they’ve put me in a great position physically to be able to do what is demanded of me in my role. Now, I’ve got a couple months under me playing with this team, familiarity with the guys, the formation, the style of play. I feel the most in form and the most fit I’ve been in a long time.”