Nguyen's girlfriend watching Lee play in Vietnam
Lee Nguyen’s last match stateside was arguably the biggest of his career — an appearance for the United States in a 2007 friendly against China in San Jose.
And now, after a weighted lottery allocated the Dallas native to the Vancouver Whitecaps earlier this month, his next showing could prove more crucial than his last. “It’s definitely top two if not one of my biggest (games),” Nguyen said in a phone interview with the Toronto Sun Wednesday. “My first time really playing back (in North America).”
Largely absent after plying his trade in southeast Asia the past few seasons, he’s hoping to re-establish himself when the ‘Caps open against the expansion Montreal Impact in a nationally televised affair on March 10 at B.C. Place. With so much attention given to the lottery that gifted Vancouver the former U.S. international over a host of interested clubs — including Toronto FC — supporters in the Pacific northwest will likely have Nguyen on a short-leash after the expansion Whitecaps finished bottom of the MLS table in 2011. “I’m looking forward to it,” Nguyen said, when asked about the reality of playing in one of Major League Soccer’s biggest markets. “I love playing in an atmosphere like Vancouver … I want that pressure.”
But it’s the unconventional road Nguyen has travelled that has many questioning the kind of influence the creative attacker will have during the grind that is MLS — a challenge he says he’s ready for as he looks to earn stability for the first time in his career. “I’m looking to earn a spot in Vancouver and hopefully have a long career there. I’ve talked to Martin Rennie … and they’re excited to see me in preseason and what I have to offer. I’m looking forward to it.” After leaving NCAA powerhouse Indiana after his freshmen year, Nguyen joined PSV Eindhoven in 2006. As he struggled to receive first-team minutes in the Netherlands, he moved to Randers of Denmark two years later. Although he made 22 appearance in the Danish top flight, he failed to stick a second time and left the club in early 2009. “I was looking for playing time,” Nguyen said. “(I) went to Denmark and did well there, but my contract was coming up and I was just looking for something new. Vietnam came and I went that route.”
A two-year stint in Asia would see Nguyen become the first American to play in Vietnam amid an apparent deal with FC Dallas falling through along the way. “(Dallas) broke down once we got into contract talks,” Nguyen said, when asked about the terms of his prior effort to return to North America. “It broke down in the negotiation process.” Nguyen knows Toronto had decent odds (38.3%) of acquiring him earlier this month. Although he left the U.S. before any of the league’s three Canadian clubs were in existence, he has followed MLS to the extent he knows what to expect when players report for preseason. “I’ve seen Vancouver on highlights … Toronto a couple of times when they were in town to play FC Dallas,” Nguyen said. “I like their styles and the way they play because they try and pass it around. I think (Vancouver) will fit well.”
The Whitecaps might have found a playmaker to be the missing link between the club’s backs and forwards. “I’m more of that creative midfielder,” Nguyen said. “I create chances for my teammates and I try and put people in scoring positions.” With target man Eric Hassli, winger Davide Chumiento and Camilo in desperate need of a composed mind in the middle of the park, with the addition of World Cup veteran Lee Young-Pyo at the back, Nguyen might be the final piece Vancouver needs to help last year’s bottom feeders compete for a first ever Canadian playoff birth. “I’m also very dangerous around the box and I can also create for myself,” Nguyen said, in response to his abilities as a player. “My goal is to win a starting spot with Vancouver and help them win games. I think my playing will do the talking.”
A return to Canada and the States also presents U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann a platform to consistently watch a player who fell out of favour with former bench boss Bob Bradley.
“Klinsmann has talked to my agent and they just want to see me play,” Nguyen said. “I just hope if I’m playing and he’s watching that he likes what he sees.”
With Vancouver looking to rebound from a disappointing inaugural season and Nguyen hoping to re-energize a career, all eyes will be on the Whitecaps, and their newest acquisition, when next season opens with an all-Canadian first kick.
via Nguyen excited to be joining 'Caps | Soccer | Sports | Toronto Sun.
Lee Nguyen’s appearance with the USA National Team,