Lee Nguyen hurtled the challenge of San Jose’s Danny Hoesen along the touchline in the 97th minute, cut back to his favored right foot, and picked his head up. Feigning a cross, he dropped a deft, no-look pass into the path of Latif Blessing, who found João Moutinho at the top of the Earthquakes penalty area.
The immediate result of Nguyen’s linkup with Blessing in the dying moments of LAFC’s match in San Jose on Saturday was a match-winning goal and three points to the Black & Gold. But in the grand scheme of the midfielder’s career, the assist confirmed entrance into one of MLS’ most elite groups: the 50-50 club.
Before Saturday night, 19 players in the history of the League had reached 50 career goals and 50 assists. With 51 goals and 50 assists in 197 matches, Nguyen became the 20th member of that group, confirming his place among the all-time greats in MLS.
Members of the 50-50 club are the epitome of the all-around attacker. Not simply a poacher or one that thrives off the finishing of others, they are as equally adept at setting up goals as they are at finishing for themselves.
Three of the top 10 goal scorers in MLS history lack 50-50 club credentials. And that goes for three of the top 10 assist leaders as well.
So when we talk the MLS 50-50 club, we truly are talking the absolute best in terms dangerous attackers anywhere on the pitch. Past members of the club include the likes of Jamie Moreno, Landon Donovan, and Jeff Cunningham. All MLS royalty in terms of goal production.
Currently, only three active players in MLS have reached the 50-50 plateau. Diego Valeri doing it in 2017, while Federico Higuain reached the mark earlier this season. The next closest to joining the group, Sebastian Giovinco, remains seven assists shy of the mark.
For Nguyen it’s confirmation of his elite-level credentials in MLS.
Entering his seventh MLS season, the midfielder is on a run of three-straight seasons with double-digit assists. His 36 assists since 2015 are behind just Sacha Kljestan (55) and Giovinco (43) in the same timeframe.
Adding to his assists, Nguyen has hit double-digit goals twice in his career, including a career-high 18 goals in 2014. That same year, he was a finalist for the MLS MVP award and nearly carried the New England Revolution to MLS Cup.
"At the end of the my career, when I look back on it, I’ve done a great job with the time I’ve been in this league,” Nguyen told Soccer By Ives last season, when he was just one assist shy of the 50-50 mark. “I have to be happy with that, but at the same time I want to be in a situation to help my team win and be able to challenge for a title.”
Entrance into the 50-50 club now secured and with LAFC within striking distance of the top teams in the Western Conference, Nguyen has a chance to continue to write his story in the MLS record books.