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West Coast, Best Coast? Nguyen Represents a Legit MVP Candidate in the East

October 23, 2014 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - New England Revolution News Release

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Popular wisdom in some MLS circles is that the league's MVP will be on the field on Saturday afternoon when Seattle Sounders FC hosts the LA Galaxy.

The thought process, of course, is that either Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy) or Obafemi Martins (Seattle Sounders FC) will earn the prestigious award, and you'd be hard-pressed to argue against either taking home the honor. They've both had standout seasons.

But a few hours later and a few thousand miles east of CenturyLink Field, another legitimate MVP candidate could suit up in the New England Revolution's regular-season finale against Toronto FC.

Lee Nguyen, the only pure midfielder garnering serious MVP consideration, has been downright impossible to ignore in recent weeks. In the past 13 games - through the most critical part of the season - he's racked up an astonishing 11 goals and four assists. He has at least one goal or one assist in nine of New England's past 10 games. No one's been hotter when it's mattered most.

That's been Nguyen's trademark this season - popping up when it matters most. While some players have a tendency to shrink in the spotlight, Nguyen has only shone brighter. His eight game-winning goals this season lead the league and represent the fifth-best single-season mark in MLS history.

There's no questioning Nguyen's influence on the Revolution this season. While his contributions on the defensive side have been noteworthy, it's his goal-scoring exploits which have understandably garnered the most attention. The Revs are 13-1-2 this season when Nguyen scores a goal or registers an assist.

In total, Nguyen has notched 17 goals and five assists this year, making it one of the best offensive seasons in Revolution history. Head coach Jay Heaps is thrilled that the goals have finally brought Nguyen the attention he's so richly deserved since arriving in New England back in 2012.

"I think it's shown this year that he's finished his chances," said Heaps. "But last year I thought he was just as dynamic, just as creative throughout the year and just as important to us, setting up Diego (Fagundez) or creating plays where Diego was free.

"This year Lee has just found a great spot and he's finished his chances, and when Lee gets confident in his finishing abilities, it shows. He's lethal."

There's a great debate about what an MVP award truly represents. Is it the player who is most valuable to his specific team? Most valuable to the league? Or simply the best player?

Nguyen could make a case in any scenario, but there's no debate about his role in guiding the Revs to second place in the Eastern Conference this season. He's scored or assisted on 46 percent of New England's goals this year, and perhaps most telling, the Revs lost both games he missed while being outscored by a margin of 5-0.

His performances this season have earned rave reviews from his teammates, who've made a habit of chanting "MVP" every time Nguyen conducts an interview in the locker room. He's even been honored by players around the league, as he was named to the inactive roster for this year's MLS All-Star game.

The only person who refuses to lavish praise on Nguyen, it seems, is Nguyen himself, who unselfishly always points to the efforts of his teammates when referencing his breakout season.

"The core group of guys we kept together, we've just been jelling," Nguyen said. "Obviously with Jermaine (Jones) in there it helps me play a little bit higher and guys around me have just been finding me in great spots. From there, I just have to reward them."

Nguyen has held up his end of that bargain, rewarding his teammates time and again this season. Now it's time for the league to reward Nguyen with the proper recognition.

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