Lee Nguyen is now grabbing the attention of the media in Vietnam, where his short-lived journey had an unhappy ending, following his hogging the limelight in Major League Soccer (MLS) with his Player of the Month award.
The New England Revolution midfielder took home the Etihad Airways MLS Player of the Month award for October – the final month of the season – after having a league-high nine game-winning goals this year, according to the MLS website.
The 2014 MLS regular season, running from March, ended on Sunday. Ten teams will compete in the postseason MLS Cup Playoffs in November and December, culminating in the championship game, the MLS Cup.
The 28-year-old, who holds dual citizenship in the U.S. and Vietnam, netted five goals last month alone, and a total of 18 during the season, which is fourth most in the MLS and the most ever by a pure midfielder in the U.S.’s highest-level football (soccer) league.
The award is the icing on the cake as Nguyen has been called up by the U.S. national team to prepare for two friendly games against Colombia and Ireland this month.
In Vietnam, the media are wondering why he just could not perform as impressively when playing in V-League, Vietnam’s top-flight league whose quality is undoubtedly far behind the MLS, as he has been doing in the American tourney.
The midfielder, whose Vietnamese name is Nguyen The Anh, made his professional debut for PSV Eindhoven in 2006, before moving to V-league side Hoang Anh Gia Lai on January 18, 2009.
Lee Nguyen (R) presents his Hoang Anh Gia Lai jersey with the club's owner Doan Nguyen Duc on January 11, 2009. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Nguyen had 24 appearances in all competitions with the Vietnamese club in 2009, scoring 13 goals and adding 16 assists, according to his profile on the MLS website.
After a season with Hoang Anh Gia Lai, Nguyen trained with Arsenal in England in January 2010, and ended up signing a new deal with V-League’s Becamex Binh Duong FC the same month.
Nguyen only made 15 appearances in one and a half years, scoring a mere two goals, with Becamex Binh Duong before ending his journey in Vietnam in June 2011, having repeatedly suffered from injuries.
Lee Nguyen during a Becamex Binh Duong FC match in V-League in 2011. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Mot The Gioi (One World), a Vietnamese-language newswire, reported on October 4 that Nguyen did not succeed at Hoang Anh Gia Lai because he was in conflict with the team’s then head coach, Thai legendary striker Kiatisak Senamuang.
The newswire quoted Nguyen’s father, Nguyen Pham – who lived with his son for six months at the club’s headquarters in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai in 2009 – as saying that the coach had been asking other players, especially the Thais, to isolate the Vietnamese-American player.
Phap Luat Thanh Pho (Ho Chi Minh City Law) newspaper published a picture with satirical captions in its Saturday issue, mockingly citing three reasons behind Nguyen’s unsuccessful career in Vietnam.
The captions say Nguyen was ‘boycotted,’ while his teammates refused to make assists for him, because he was paid extremely high salaries. He also became less professional after quickly adapting to the lifestyle of his Vietnamese fellows, who frequent clubs and beer gardens, the captions mock.
Finally, Nguyen also ‘learned’ from his local teammates to appear unmotivated as he would always be selected for the main formation, according to the captions.