For the New England Revolution, Lee Nguyen was crucial in their win over New York City FC on Sunday. The midfielder picked up a goal and an assist in his side's 2-1 victory, both his first since rejoining the club last month.
In some ways, Nguyen is replaying some of his greatest hits from his first spell with the club; gone for two and a half years, Nguyen rejoined a number of former teammates and the benefit of those long-established relationships was evident just three minutes into the NYCFC match, when he got the assist on Teal Bunbury's goal.
The play saw Bunbury receive the ball at the halfway line, then pass it to a nearby Nguyen. Nguyen quickly returned the ball to Bunbury, sending the forward clear of the NYCFC defenders to continue his run into the penalty box and find the net. For Nguyen, the play was all about familiarity with a teammate he played with for four years before departing for LAFC in 2018.
"It’s a play we’ve been able to combine with quite a bit in our time," Nguyen said following the match about combining with Bunbury. "I know Teal likes to get in behind, so once you play that, I just needed to play it into space he could run onto and he did the rest."
Nguyen also said it helped to have chemistry with his teammates from the day he returned to New England, and the feeling is mutual for Bunbury.
"He’s a talented player," he said. "Playing with him, it’s easy. I think we’ve got a connection."
Nguyen's presence paid off in other ways against NYCFC. In a match where the home side had two-thirds of the possession at Yankee Stadium, head coach Bruce Arena said Nguyen was the one that kept them in the game as NYCFC quickly began the search for an equalizer.
"[He brought] just some composure on the ball, I thought, at times during the game, especially during the first half," Arena said. "We lost any kind of control we may have had over the game because we couldn’t hold onto the ball, complete any passes. Lee certainly got that straightened out for us in the second half."
Sunday's match was perhaps the day Nguyen fully reintroduced himself as a New England player, and in a momentous way — the assist to Bunbury's goal was his 50th for the Revolution, making him the first player to score 50 goals and record 50 assists in club colors. Nguyen did not realize it at the time, saying he only remembered after the team went 2-0 up from his penalty kick in the 80th minute, but it was a moment that cements his place in the club's history.
"It’s a great honor and to be able to do that for one club. That means a lot to me," Nguyen said. "Also credit to the guys I’ve been playing with ‘cause without them, [there's] no way I would’ve been able to do it and so this is a great moment for me personally, but I’m so proud to be able to do 50/50 all in a red shirt."