Returning Revolution midfielder Lee Nguyen didn’t want to waste any time in getting back to Foxborough.
Instead of flying north from Miami — and quarantining for 10 days, much like Revs newcomers Kekuta Manneh and Tommy McNamara had to do upon arrival several weeks ago — Nguyen drove north on Interstate 95 following his transfer back to The Boys In Blue, and therefore will only have to quarantine for three days.
Nguyen is expected to be available for selection — at the very least, making the match day squad — when the Revs fly to Philadelphia to take on the Union this weekend.
Revolution social media accounts showed Nguyen at the 1776 Revolution Way training center Wednesday, 24 hours after New England re-acquired the former U.S. international from Inter Miami on Tuesday. The club sent its natural fourth-round selection in January’s SuperDraft as well as the potential of up to $50,000 in allocation money to do so.
The aforementioned training center was only a sketch in the Revolution offices the last time Nguyen was a member of the club in May 2018, when New England sent him to Los Angeles and LAFC in exchange for $700,000 in allocation money — $350,000 General, $350,000 Targeted — at the end of the Primary Transfer Window. He hadn’t made a match day squad for then-manager Brad Friedel after Nguyen had held out at the beginning of training camp in January. He arrived three and a half weeks late, and was the subject of speculation regarding his status in mid-April.
And while his services are needed here in Foxborough, head coach Bruce Arena isn’t automatically penciling Nguyen into the No. 10 role, the role Nguyen had during the six years he spent here prior to heading west.
“(He’ll play) somewhere in the midfield,” Arena said during media availability on Thursday afternoon. “However you want to label the position he plays. We don’t get all hung up on defining that as a number 10 – whether it’s a 10-8, an 8-10, a straight 8, a straight 10, what have you. He’s certainly capable of playing those positions on the field.”
Arena noted that he was surprised at Nguyen’s situation in Miami — five appearances in 2020, accruing 92 minutes — and how he became available. Inter is looking to sign Argentinian playmaker Gonzalo Higuain and needed to make room for him on the pitch.
It meant Nguyen would become surplus to requirements for Miami coach Diego Alonso.
“I think the people in Miami understood his situation and wanted to be helpful,” Arena said. “His agent reached out to us a week or two ago. We had an interest and we were fortunate we were able to piece together a deal. As a player, you should know more about him than I do with his six-year history here in New England. He’s been a very good player in the league. I still think he has enough to help our roster. When I was in LA, I saw him play with LAFC and I still thought he was a very good player, and I still think he is. He’s a proven player in the league, he has a history of scoring goals, of being a playmaker – that’s something I think our team can certainly utilize.
“His fitness levels are certainly not going to be at the level of players that have been playing on a regular basis. He had limited minutes in Miami, so we’re going to be well aware of that. In his initial opportunities with our team, his minutes are certainly going to be limited. We’re hopeful we can get him up to speed in a short period of time, and by the end of September, he’ll be better positioned to play significant minutes.”
Arena also isn’t inclined to give expectations about what Nguyen will do in this second stint with the Revolution.
“We’re going to wait and see with all of that. We need to see him on the field with our team. He hasn’t been on the field yet with our team,” he said. “We’re going to be smart about this. We’re not going to make any bold predictions at this point, or any statements about how he’s going to fit in. But I do believe he’s going to fit in and fit in well. Over a short period of time, we’ll be better positioned to give a better answer to that question.”
Nguyen is elated to be back in Foxborough.
“This is the club that took a chance on me when I came into the league,” he told reporters. “I hoped perhaps because it gave me my first start to build something here. I had a lot of love for this club and I always have, even when I left. I always wished well for this club and followed them from afar. It was unfortunate the way we parted ways, but I’ve never lost love for this club, so when I have the chance to come back and Bruce said I could be a big help for this team, I was excited. I’m looking forward to being able to compete and hopefully try to finish what we started here and that’s to win (an MLS) Cup and bring it back to New England.
“(Arena) thinks I can really help this team and so do I. I’ve watched them last year and this year in the bubble and, like I said, this team has everything you need to get to the (MLS) Cup and I feel I can help them in different ways, whether it’s playing the 10 or the 8. But everyone has seen my game and I feel like I can help facilitate and give chances to these guys up top while also being able to help with composure in possession and fluidity with our attack. I think Bruce knew before he traded for me what I can bring to the team and with all the weapons on this team, I’m thrilled, too, to be able to come and be a part of this system with the guys that are here. And when Carles (Gil) is healthy, that’ll be great and he’ll be a great player to play with knowing his skill sets. All the players here, I’m excited to be a part of it.”