Bengtson's skills a gift and curse for Revolution

Bengtson's skills a gift and curse for Revolution
March 14, 2013, 3:30 pm
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FOXBORO -- What's fortunate for Jerry Bengtson is somewhat unfortunate for the New England Revolution.

In Saturday's season-opening win over the Chicago Fire in the Windy City, Bengtson proved all the media-day talk to be true. He is, in fact, what they call a "goal scorer."

"We expect him to score goals for us," said Revolution coach Jay Heaps on media day last week. "We expect him to be on the end of things."

In Chicago on Saturday night, Bengtson was on the end of a Kelyn Rowe chip shot down to the right post, and Bengtson beat the defender to the perfectly placed ball, and headed it home for the 1-0 lead, and the eventual 1-0 win.

"I laid it out to my left foot, and I knew somebody was going to be at that back post," said Rowe after practice on Tuesday. "We had all big guys up there. So it's their job to get to the back post. It's my job to put it there. And it happened."

It's Bengtson's job to finish. That's why he was on the Revolution's radar for several years, up until he transferred to the club in July of last season.

Bengtson's presence up front is a welcome sign to New England. But like last season, they expect him to be taking time away from the team to join his Honduras national team because it's a World Cup qualifying year.

Having the honor to play for his country is the fortunate part for Bengtson. But seeing him leave New England at times throughout the season is the unfortunate part for the Revolution.

"We'd like to have him here longer," said Heaps on Tuesday, while acknowledging that Bengtson will play one more game with the Revs and then miss a week to join Honduras. "I think that's what we're trying to do, is keep him here. But unfortunately for us, and fortunately for him, he's with his national team. So he's going to be called away after this game [against Philadelphia]. We just have to make sure that when he does come back, we get him back into the rhythm that he's in with our guys right now. He's comfortable. Guys know how he likes to play, where he likes the ball. And that's just something we just have to make sure we continue when he gets back."

With two preseason goals and now the team's only regular-season goal, Bengtson has three goals in five games that he's played.

Fortunately for the Revs, they've dealt with Bengtson leaving and returning before. And perhaps the last time he returned from playing with Honduras, was the biggest test the team and Bengtson have had with his unique situation.

Bengtson reported to the team this season on Feb. 7, missing the first two preseason games. On Feb. 6, he scored the game-winning goal against the United States in the first game of the Hexagonal qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

After the game, Bengtson flew to Boston, and reported to the Revolution locker room the very next day.

"It was just unique because he scored the game-winning goal against the U.S., and here we have a locker room full of former U.S. national team players, current U.S. national team players that didn't play in the game, but could be called in," said Heaps. "It was just interesting to see the dynamic of how he felt very humbled, I think, by the moment. And the guys on the team gave him a good ribbing. He laughed it off, but I think that's the kind of guy he is."

Given his late arrival, Bengtson wasn't asked to come out to the field to train with the rest of the team. According to Heaps, all he had to do was stay inside and go through a bike workout.

But Bengtson hit the pitch that day with the rest of his teammates, proving his commitment to the club when he was not playing for Honduras.

"He's enjoying this group," said Heaps. "So when he gets a chance to get back here, he gets back here as soon as he can, and he's right back in."

But unfortunately for the Revolution, he'll be leaving and returning "quite a bit."

That leaves New England, at times, without the guy that they look at to be their go-to scorer, which he proved to be against Chicago.

"He has a knack for sensing where the ball's going to be, just like Taylor Twellman years ago," said Heaps on Tuesday. "I think Taylor was in a different class, in playing with a player like that, where at any moment he could change the game. I think that's what it is. When you have a player on the field that can change the game at any moment with a goal, you play with confidence. So if you're 0-0 in the 60th minute, and you know there's a chance you could get it, you're entire group is enthused and playing a little bit more aggressively, knowing that at any moment, someone like Taylor or someone like Jerry Bengtson could score that goal."

"Around the goal, he's one of the most dangerous players that I think the league has," said Rowe. "He always finds a little touch that finds the net. And that's what you want from a goal-scorer."

So how will the Revs manage when they're without such a highly-touted and gifted goal-scorer?

"We have good forwards in Chad Barrett and Dimitry [Imbongo]. We have players that can step in. But we also have to get goals from guys like Diego [Fagundez], Juan [Toja], Kelyn [Rowe], Lee [Nguyen], Donnie Smith," said Heaps. "We have a really good midfield, we have to be a balanced attack.

"Obviously I think it's a challenge," added Heaps. "But I think it's a challenge the guys on our team want. Guys that didn't play very much in the first game, fighting for minutes, are going to have a really big opportunity. And nothing better than when you have that challenge laid out in front of you, that you go out and get something."

Rowe agrees. And as a midfielder, he'll be putting the pressure on himself and his fellow midfielders to create the offense that Bengtson will be taking to his Honduras national team.

"It just means someone else has to come in there and do the same thing," said Rowe. "They have to find a way to score, whether it be Chad Barrett, Diego Fagundez, someone else we put up front. Saer's back in. They'll find different ways to score. Forwards are going to find a way to score, and the midfielders are going to find a way to set them up, if not score themselves."

"We're looking at our midfield. You've got Lee Nguyen, you've got Juan Toja. Even when Donnie [Smith] is in there, when myself is in there, even when Diego Fagundez is in there, we're able to create things. And you saw it [against Chicago], we were able to create goal chances. We just didn't put them away. And that's our last thing. Just put those chances away. We know we're going to create them with our great players. So it's just whoever's going to be in there, find a way to score."

But when Bengtson is with the Revs, there's nothing unfortunate about it.

That was evident in his game-winning goal in the season-opener.

"It's huge," said Heaps. "It's a great goal because he timed the run perfectly and he finished it well. And for me, he did all the hard work and all the things that we needed from him. He held the ball up well. He put their back line under pressure the entire game. He's showing this year what kind of player he is. When he scores, we're a much better team."