FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The sight of Jerry Bengtson peeling away to celebrate a goal with his Honduran teammates on three separate occasions in an 8-1 victory over Canada last week prompted more dialogue on the one question that has haunted New England since the summer.
Why hasn't the prolific striker transferred his searing international form to his performances with the Revolution?
His display in San Pedro Sula exceeded his total output with his new club. Bengtson has scored just two goals in 12 appearances since joining the Revolution in July.
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There are plenty of mitigating factors – the grueling Olympic and World Cup qualifying commitments, the associated absences from the Revolution, the interrupted adjustment to a different league and the years of chemistry with his international teammates all figure in the mix – to explain the disparity. Understanding the issues hasn't solved the underlying problem as of yet, though.
“With the national team, we're going forward and we're scoring goals,” Bengtson told MLSsoccer.com through a translator. “That's what we're working for. With the transition back to MLS, I am working hard, but the goals are not coming yet. Game-by-game, I'm getting the confidence by working hard. The goals will come.”
Bengtson's conviction isn't misplaced. Even when he isn't scoring, he usually finds himself on the end of a chance or two in each game because he puts himself in the right spots. When he is in top form at the club level, he usually polishes off those opportunities. Right now, he's hitting the post when the net is empty (as he did in Philadelphia in early October) or scuffing a difficult chance in a promising position (as he did in the waning stages of the 1-0 victory over Chicago on Saturday).
Revolution coach Jay Heaps admits he wants to see more goals from Bengtson, but he also notes that there is more to the story than just the fundamental end product. Bengtson offers intelligent runs and hold up play in possession and supplies ample work rate when the Revs are trying to win the ball back. Those qualities allow Bengtson to retain his place as he takes a little more time to bring everything together in front of goal.
“Scoring goals is a comfort level,” Heaps said. “It's a feel. He obviously feels it with Honduras and the players around him. The key for us is to get him here with our guys – and training on a more regular basis for more than two weeks at a time – so he understands where the ball is going to come from and where he is going to get his goals.”
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And those goals will come, according to Bengtson. He said he and his Revolution teammates have started to develop the necessary understanding in the final third. By the time 2013 hits, Bengtson said he believes that his production will mirror his performances with Honduras and quell the debate about his work with the Revolution for the foreseeable future.
“With the national team, it's totally different,” Bengtson said. “I've played with most of my teammates for years and months. We know each other. I know how they play, they know how I play. The same thing will happen here for next season. I haven't played a lot of games here, but I'm getting to know my teammates. It will take a few more games, but, hopefully, in 2013, there will be better games.”
Kyle McCarthy covers the New England Revolution for MLSsoccer.com