During his six seasons with the New England Revolution, Lee Nguyen wasn't sure his neighbors knew he was a professional soccer player. He's not even sure if they knew he played soccer.
After LAFC eliminated the Galaxy with a 5-3 victory in the Western Conference Semifinal last Thursday, Nguyen came home to a surprise. Posted on the back gate next to his garage was a white poster board. A handwritten message in pink and blue marker read, "Great game, Lee! From Your Next Door Neighbors, Mia and Carter!!"
"When I get home [from a match], it's pretty late. It's pretty quiet. I get home and usually I'm putting on a TV show or watching the highlights and then going to sleep," Nguyen said. "I didn't notice anything until I pulled in. It's dark and my gate is brown but all of a sudden, I see a white square on my gate. And I'm like, 'What is that?'"
Nguyen had actually seen his neighbors prior to leaving for the match against the Galaxy. They wished him good luck before he left and said they'd be in attendance.
Inserted into the starting line-up as the result of an injury to Mark-Anthony Kaye, Nguyen was instrumental in the Black & Gold's victory. He nearly had the assist of the night - a backheel pass to a streaking Diego Rossi - had it not been for a last-ditch defensive play. But despite not appearing on the scoresheet, the midfielder played 74 minutes as the tempo-setter of the LAFC midfield.
"It was awesome. It kind of warmed my heart a bit," Nguyen said of seeing the sign after the match. "I saw my neighbors at the game. After the game, I saw them again and that was already a great feeling to see that they were there supporting the team. Then I got home and it's late, I figure everyone is asleep.
"The fact that they made that sign and they went out of their way to put it on my gate, it really put into perspective how awesome that is. You were playing in front of the stadium in front of fans but to come home to that, it just made it even cooler to know that I'm surrounded by awesome people."
Nguyen and LAFC now have a quick turnaround as they face the Seattle Sounders (Tue. at 7 pm PT on ESPN) with a trip to the MLS Cup final on the line. It was never in doubt, but after his surprise following the Galaxy match, Nguyen knows his neighbors and more will be behind the team.
"For me, it just shows how great of a city and great of a community we have. And how soccer has reached so many people. To see that my neighbors are a part of that is such a cool feeling."