FOXBOROUGH — As a scorer, Jerry Bengtson knows the cloth from which he’s cut. There’s a list of Honduran strikers from David Suazo to Wilson Palacios that the 25-year-old grew up following.
It’s the same as Carlos Pavon’s, the top scorer in the history of the Honduran national soccer team. After beating a goalie — either with a chip shot that bent like a golden arch or a header that looked like it was ziplined to the top corner — Pavon would chase down the ball, grab it out of the net, and run with it like it was a souvenir.
They were the type of players Bengtson fashioned himself after — thirsty scorers — and when he finally got a chance to play with them when he joined the national team in 2010, it felt like they had handed him the baton.
“I got to play with those players and it was good for me,” Bengtson, who signed with the Revolution last week, said through a translator. “I believe that those type of players passed their spirit on to the new players like me coming up. They always supported us, and helped us get to that level.”
Bengtson led La Liga Nacional de Honduras in scoring three straight seasons, including the 2011 Clausura season when he put up 15 goals for Motagua, the most since Pavon in 2007.
They were the kind of numbers that made coach Jay Heaps and the Revolution front office keep an eye out for him.
“Jerry was on our radar as someone we would watch,” Heaps said. “We had been eyeballing him for a year, watching him play, and you don’t always get those players.”
Heaps was unsure if he would start Bengtson Sunday in a key matchup with the New York Red Bulls at Gillette Stadium, or if he’d bring him off the bench. But he does expect Bengtson to have an immediate impact.
“I feel like I have a lot of responsibility,” Bengtson said.
As Heaps searched for ways to improve the team midway through the season, he said scoring was an issue a player such as Bengtson could help solve. With 22 goals on the season, the Revolution are tied for ninth in the league. Saer Sene has eight of those, and no other player on the team has more than two.
“You want to get a goal scorer, we’re trying to get a goal scorer, a consistent one, and it’s not easy,” Heaps said. “It’s not a two plus two is four. We’re working to bring better players in and what I saw from him is we want to continue his work rate. He works hard off the ball and helps his team defensively, but when he gets near the goal, he has that knack and we’re just hoping that knack translates.”
Entering the season, the Revolution loaded up on strikers, most notably bringing in Jose Moreno from Colombia, Bjorn Runstrom from Sweden, and Sene from France. They’ve all had degrees of success.
At one end of the spectrum, there’s Runstrom. He was hardly heard from, making three appearances off the bench. He was let go last week in order for the team to make room on the roster with the international transfer window opening up.
Moreno scored his first goal in his first career start April 14 against DC United but hasn’t found the net since. A calf injury forced him to miss most of May, and after returning to the starting lineup June 2 against Chicago, he’s missed the past two games with a left ankle sprain and is listed as doubtful for Sunday’s game.
Sene’s been the team’s top scoring threat.
“We’re trying to add another goal scorer alongside Saer so not all the pressure’s on Saer,” said midfielder Benny Feilhaber. “So hopefully we’ll get that from him.”
In their past four games, the Revolution have scored six goals, by six players, and the hope is that Bengtson can add to that depth.
“You need a lot of options up front and I think right now we’ve got a good look,” Heaps said. “The best teams in the world have a lot of different ways to score goals. You can’t get them all on the field at the same time, but if you can keep rotating and get a good roster rotation with different players and substitution patterns you can be dangerous at all times.”
In the meantime, Bengtson’s transition will be a quick one. He will get thrown into the mix here, but he’ll go to London to play for Honduras in the Olympics. Heaps said the goal right now is to make sure that he isn’t overwhelmed.
“It’s managing expectations, it’s managing what he can take and how much he can take and just a constant dialogue,” Heaps said. “It’s new to us and we have to also respect the fact that this is a major move for him professionally. How he adapts will be [determined by] how much we push him.”