New England Soccer Today

Dealing Nguyen Would’ve Been Unwise

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

On Tuesday, it was reported the Revolution rejected a $1 million transfer for midfielder Lee Nguyen. FourFourTwo’s Paul Tenorio broke the news the attacking midfielder was being courted by Maccabi Haifa of Israel. While it’s unknown if Nguyen would have had any interest in the deal, the Revolution’s decision to turn down the offer shouldn’t be surprising.

It could be argued that Kelyn Rowe, fresh off an impressive Gold Cup appearance with the U.S. National Team, could shift from left back to his more natural position of attacking midfielder as a replacement for Nguyen. However, Nguyen has been a core part of the offense for the last five seasons in Foxboro and would leave massive shoes for Rowe to fill mid-season.

Even more unlikely is the possibility of the Revolution bringing in a replacement for Nguyen with one week left in the transfer window. If the offer were accepted, New England would receive $666,667 in cash (after the MLS takes their one-third cut of the transfer fee) and New England could convert $650,000 into allocation money. For a comparison on what that could bring in, Minnesota traded $650,000 prior to the season for Kevin Molino and backup keeper Patrick McLain. A player of Molino’s stature is certainly nothing to scoff at.

However, Nguyen’s talent already makes him an elite player in the MLS, as he’s rated seventh in the league in player rating (according to, so a trade for a like-player would almost be redundant.

That’s not to mention Nguyen provides amazing value to the Revolution for what he’s earning in compensation. Consider the top 10 performers in the league this season (per player ratings): the median compensation of the only six players who are in front of Nguyen is roughly $2.15 million, more than four times Nguyen’s salary. Of those top six only Maxi Urruti ($300,000) and David Accam ($821,000) are earning less than $1 million. The top 10 list is as follows:

Player   2017 Compensation
David Villa  – $5,610,000
Sebastian Giovinco – $7,115,556
Maxi Urruti  – $300,000
David Accam – $821,000
Romain Alessandrini – $1,999,401
Miguel Almiron – $2,297,000
Lee Nguyen – $500,000
Ignacio Piatti – $450,000
Cristian Roldan – $137,000
Benny Feilhaber – $600,000

Nguyen doesn’t represent the best bargain among the league leaders, but a player of his talent is hard to come across, and it’d likely cost more than an annual salary of $500,000 to find a replacement. Not to mention, a player of that talent level may require a designated player spot, which Nguyen doesn’t occupy.

It’s also fair to say the move would signal an end of the team’s playoff chances, however faint they may be, as Nguyen has been the best player on the field this season. There’s also the sense that it’s do-or-die time for the current coaching regime, as the Revolution have not won a playoff game since their 2014 MLS Cup appearance.

Those who are skeptical of the Revolution’s chances in the short-term could argue the team should turn their attention away from the 2017 season, and focus on the long-term stability of the club. Why not sell high on a soon-to-be 31-year-old midfielder and gather assets that could be utilized better for next season?

It’s unknown how long Nguyen’s contract runs through; he was rewarded in the spring of 2016 with a new contract, replacing the one that was set to expire after the 2017 season. Assuming the Revolution extended the contract as a compromise to proving a significant raise, Nguyen will be under contract for the 2018 season and, as mentioned, is already providing the team excellent value. There’s no reason to believe Nguyen can’t produce next season as well.

Additionally, New England don’t appear to be short on allocation money, so the team should be able to upgrade weaker positions around the field without sacrificing Nguyen.

The Revolution are firmly near the bottom of the league in team salary this season at approximately $5.4 million, and the figure that is measured against the salary cap does not include all of the salary of Revolution’s designated players, or any of the salary of players on the supplemental or reserve roster.

MLS provides $1.4 million in allocation money to teams prior to the season, and although we don’t know exact numbers, the numbers imply Revolution won’t spend all of that money. With some 2017 allocation money left over, the Revolution can roll over some of that money into the offseason. In fact, they’ve have already shifted allocation money into next season, courtesy of a minor trade made last month with San Jose.

Pair that with the fact that Benjamin Angoua’s $600,000 salary will be wiped off the books if his purchase option isn’t exercised, the Revolution appear to already be sitting on a pile of allocation money for 2018 while having a lot of room in their 2018 budget to work with. Wiping Nguyen’s salary and tacking on another $650,000 wouldn’t put them in a better position, only padding onto a surplus that may not be needed.

Bottom line: trading away Lee Nguyen would have no benefits short-term and would provide little value to the team in the long-term. The Revolution have been relatively quiet in the summer transfer window, short of the trade with San Jose and their signing of Claude Dielna. However, sometimes the best move is one you don’t make, and turning down Maccabi Haifa’s offer for Nguyen might turn out to be the best move the Revolution make this summer.

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