Instead, Nguyen played 55 minutes in New England's 2-1 loss against DC United, despite battling severe flu-like symptoms. His toughness impressed Heaps and his teammates alike.
"Lee [Nguyen], poor Lee, had a 100-something temperature and [was] taking an IVs before the game and he went out there and gutted out a performance," Heaps said.
"I've never seen a player take an IV like he did and want to play. [Nguyen] was a little bit under the weather yesterday and we thought it was allergies. And today he woke up and he was clearly sick."
"We found out from the [athletic] trainers he had a fever and chills and shivers and all the stuff you don't want … [Nguyen] wanted to play and he was going to play. He felt good. When you get into the game and it's moving, he did alright at times. But I could see it in his eyes in the second half – he was closer to me –- I just wanted to make sure we got him out and rested.
New England struggled to impose its passing game on the contest and Nguyen, who is fast becoming a key component of the Revs' attack, did not see much of the ball. But he managed to unbalance the opposition with his dribbling when he did. He also nearly scored in the 40th minute, narrowly shooting wide of the post.
Nguyen will earn plenty of plaudits for his defensive work. His goal-line clearance in the 22nd minute was the highlight of an honest effort he gave under tough circumstances. Kelyn Rowe praised Nguyen's contribution and toughness.
"Lee [Nguyen] came in with a fever today, and props to him for going out and playing his all," Rowe said. "He looked about dead and he gave us all he had. He showed well like the player he is, he created chances for us with the width, he had a couple of shots, as well, when the keeper had to make a save.
"Playing with a fever, and playing as well as he did, what a player … Lee was tough today and he worked back as much as he worked forward. Luckily for us, he was able to run back as much as he could."
Benny Feilhaber returned from injury and replaced Nguyen in the 56th minute.
D.C.'s Chris Pontius scored the game winner in the 82nd minute, consigning the Revolution to a second-straight defeat.
Nguyen, 25, is in his first year in Major League Soccer. He is somewhat of an unknown quantity, having played professionally in three countries in six years. He arrived in MLS looking to re-establish himself in US Soccer circles and return to the U.S. national team.
Gutsy performances like these are a good starting point for the former youth soccer standout.
Thumbnail photo via Flickr/nerevolution