Lee Nguyen is anything but the prototypical Major League Soccer player. He's not imposing on a physical level, and he isn't particularly fast. But he is one of the smartest midfielders in the league, and it has shown this year.
He was often overshadowed in a midfield that included Benny Feilhaber and Kelyn Rowe, but now that Feilhaber has moved on to Kansas City and Rowe is struggling with an injury, Nguyen has stepped up to be the most important player for the Revolution.
Nguyen assisted Patrick Mullins' first professional goal in a 2-1 win over Toronto FC on Saturday, picking off a bad pass in the attacking half. He also put home the 82nd-minute penalty that won the game, but his influence again extended beyond the scoresheet.
His 82-percent passing efficiency is right on his season average, and without Rowe to provide an attacking outlet, Nguyen has pushed up to distribute more in the top half of the field for New England.
In Toronto, he showed his playmaking and distribution abilities well all game, providing some flair on the ball when the moment called for it. He made it look easy, both because of his fluid technical ability and his soccer IQ, which combine to make him one of the most underrated midfielders in a league dominated by superior athletes.
Here is the rest of Week 9's MLS Best XI:
Planet Fútbol MLS Best XI — Week 9
• Luis Robles (New York Red Bulls): Facing his sixth penalty of the season, Robles made a crucial save while his team was up a man to spark a 1-0 victory in Dallas.
• Chad Marshall (Seattle Sounders): After a long game of sacrificing his body to block shots, Marshall scored the winner for Seattle at home against the Philadelphia Union.
• Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City): Besler was solid defensively and sprung Kansas City's winning goal with a good diagonal ball out of the back.
• Drew Moor (Colorado Rapids): Moor saved a shot off the line in the first minute and slid through to deflect a dangerous cross off the post late in the game against the Galaxy.
• Kekuta Manneh (Vancouver Whitecaps): Manneh has been good all season, whether off the bench or in the lineup, and he did well again on Saturday, playing a nifty one-two to himself off the post to open the scoring against San Jose.
• Diego Valeri (Portland Timbers): Valeri ran the Timbers' offense against D.C., and although he didn't get an assist on Maxi Urruti's winner, he created the goal.
• Lee Nguyen (New England Revolution): A goal and assist from Nguyen lifted the Revs over slumping Toronto FC on the road.
• Pedro Morales (Vancouver Whitecaps): Morales has settled nicely into the No. 10 role underneath Vancouver's front line, scoring two goals in 20 minutes to help bury the Earthquakes on Saturday.
• Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers): Despite receiving close attention from multiple defenders at times, Nagbe still found a way to be effective against D.C. and set up opportunities for Portland all game with some slick passing.
• Joao Plata (Real Salt Lake): RSL looked buried in Chicago, but then Plata did exactly what Vancouver did to his team the previous week, scoring twice in the last 20 minutes — the difference was his effort was good enough to hand RSL a scrappy road win. • Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes): With two more opportunistic goals under his belt (a penalty and clean-up duty on a poor clearance), Wondolowski is making a serious case to be included in the United States' World Cup squad as a potential late-game substitute when the team needs a goal.