Midfielder Lee Nguyen (pronounced WIN) has been working out alongside his U.S. Men’s National Team teammates for the past few days in London as the team gets set to face FIFA No.3-ranked Colombia tonight at Craven Cottage. Nguyen has shown well in his limited time with the squad, but his journey to get to this moment – and possibly have a chance to once again take the field as part of the National Team – has not been as smooth as it might appear.
Back in 2007, Nguyen played three international matches for the USA, earning his first cap when he entered as a substitute for DaMarcus Beasley in the 80th minute of a 4-1 win against China PR on June 2 in San Jose. It’s been seven years however since he has sported the Red, White and Blue, which makes his inclusion in the 25-man roster that U.S. MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced for the closing matches of 2014 all the more significant.
“I was thrilled, I didn’t know what to expect,” said Nguyen when he received the phone call from Klinsmann. “I saw the number pop up and when I heard his voice it was a great feeling and I’m excited to be here. Anytime you can represent your country it’s an amazing feeling, so I’m honored. “
Nguyen may have not been a fixture for the MNT in quite some time, but his rise and incredible success in MLS this season have aided in getting him noticed by coaches and fans outside the immediate sphere of his club team. In particular, Klinsmann kept an eye on the New England Revolution attacker and lauded his abilities after getting to finally work with Nguyen in person.
“He deserves to be in this group,” Klinsmann said. “We obviously watched him throughout the whole year and he was really consistent, he was hungry for goals. So, I told him on the phone, ‘look, you deserve to come in and be part of this group here.’”
Nguyen has recorded 18 goals and five assists this season for the Revs, making him a contender for the 2014 MLS MVP award. Those contributions as well as helping lead New England alongside fellow club and now U.S. teammate Jermaine Jones, to the Eastern Conference Championship for the first time since 2007 have Nguyen’s career and confidence on the upswing.
“It’s been a great year for me and for my team,” Nguyen said. “We’ve done a lot to get to where we’re at. It’s been a tough three years [beforehand] but a great three years, so credit to all of my teammates. We’ve pushed and we set a goal to get [to the MLS Cup Playoffs]. Now we’re here and we got two or three more games hopefully.”
Despite a seven-year hiatus from international soccer, Nguyen has returned to National Team form while also finding his place among the squad’s veteran contingent – an integration made much smoother thanks in part to Jones.
“It’s great,” Nguyen said of having a familiar face around. “He’s got so much experience and so much knowledge. It’s definitely helped ease the transition. He’s given me a lot of tidbits on what to expect, so it helps mentally on how to prepare.”
“The guys have been great,” he continued. “They made me feel welcome right when I got in here. I’ve known most of them through my career so it was an easy transition trying to get into the team.”
USA-Colombia is scheduled to kick-off at 2:45 p.m. ET and it will be broadcast live on ESPN, Watch ESPN and UniMas. You can also follow live on twitter @ussoccer and @ussoccer_esp.