MLS transfer deadline day was coming to a close, and it seemed the most exciting transaction we were getting was the New York Red Bulls signing right back Ethan Kutler from their USL side. Then with less than an hour to go, LAFC acquired midfielder Lee Nguyen from the New England Revolution in a blockbuster deal that sees up to $950,000 in allocation money sent to the Revs.
The 31-year-old Nguyen has been one of the Revolution’s best players over the past five years, amassing 51 goals and 49 assists since his debut with the club in 2012. Last year he ranked in the top 15 players in MLS in xG+xA (expected goals + expected assists), per American Soccer Analysis. However, the US international grew frustrated with the Revs regression since their MLS Cup appearance in 2014 and voiced his displeasure in the offseason, asking for a transfer.
The Revs and new head coach Brad Friedel played hardball with Nguyen, insisting that the team would not even take calls from other teams regarding the midfielder. Friedel also insisted that Nguyen’s exclusion from the 18 every game this season was not punitive but simply due to form, something that many found hard to believe. Just a couple weeks ago, Taylor Twellman reported that the Revs turned down a $750,000 offer from an Eastern Conference side for Nguyen, a move that left many wondering if the Revs really were going to bury Nguyen on the roster for the entire season.
It seems that playing hardball paid off for the Revs, as the last second deal with LAFC netted them up to $200,000 more in allocation funds and sends Nguyen out of conference. The specifics of the deal include a base of $350,000 in both GAM and TAM going to the Revs, with up to $250,000 more and LAFC’s natural first-round pick in either the 2019 or 2020 MLS SuperDraft also going east depending on incentives.
For LAFC, the acquisition of Nguyen only further strengthens an already deep midfield. The expansion side currently sits second place in the West, sitting just two points behind Sporting KC through two less games played.
Just hours before the transfer, LAFC announced that forward Marco Urena would be out with an injury for up to a month. Now that they’ve acquired Lee Nguyen, LAFC coach Bob Bradley could move Carlos Vela up top and slide Nguyen in at the #10 slot. Not bad for a “plan B.”
The addition of Nguyen gives LAFC arguably the most dangerous midfield in the entire league. The group already consisted of MLS veteran Benny Feilhaber, 23-year-old Mark-Anthony Kaye, and Carlos Vela who can shift between the #10 and playing as a forward. They also have designated player Andre Horta, currently on loan from Benfica to S.C. Braga set to come in during the summer transfer window. Lee Nguyen now gives Bob Bradley more depth and options in the midfield than just about any other team in the league, which will be of huge value come summer when teams will have to navigate both the World Cup window and the U.S. Open Cup.
In summary, this deal seems like a win for everyone involved. New England finally got the huge chunk of change they were looking for, LAFC get one of the best midfielders in MLS over the past five years, and Lee Nguyen finally gets out of a rough situation.
You know, maybe Brad Friedel knew what he was doing all along.