March 20, 2013 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - New England Revolution
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - It came as no surprise when Jerry Bengtson was called up to represent Honduras in a pair of World Cup Qualifiers against Mexico and Panama, so the Revs have had ample time to prepare for Saturday's home opener against Sporting Kansas City knowing they'll be without one of their top scoring threats.
"It is what it is," head coach Jay Heaps said of Bengtson's absence. "We knew he was going to be called in. That's why we have players like Dimitry (Imbongo) and Chad (Barrett) and Diego (Fagundez). Ryan Guy's been getting some runs up there, as well. So we do have depth and we do have guys who are stepping in to play."
With 2012 leading scorer Saer Sene still recovering from ACL surgery, Bengtson has been deployed as a lone striker in the Revolution's first two games. He scored the club's only goal in a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire and had the Revs' best chance in last weekend's 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union.
Bengtson's form for both club and country has made him a virtual lock in the Revolution's starting lineup, making it difficult for the team's other forwards to break into the mix. But with Bengtson on international duty this weekend, the opportunity is there for someone else to state their case for more playing time.
"You've got Jerry Bengtson, who's clearly showing that he's playing at a high, high level right now and it's hard to get him off the field," said Heaps. "When you get this opportunity, you want to get your elbows sharp and really take advantage of the chance."
Whoever fills the forward position left vacant by Bengtson will have plenty of motivation to succeed, but Heaps doesn't want the entire goal-scoring burden to fall squarely on the shoulders of his strikers. With or without Bengtson, the attack-minded midfielders - a group including Lee Nguyen, Kelyn Rowe and Juan Toja - will need to score goals to supplement the scoring output of the forward corps.
"We need production from the midfield and we need a balanced attack," said Heaps. "Even when Taylor Twellman scored a lot of goals, Steve Ralston and Pat Noonan were scoring goals, too. I think a balanced attack is the best.
"When a guy gets hot, you ride it, but you have to be able to score from other angles. The best teams in this league have a lot of options. You're a lot better off having three guys score 10 goals than having just one guy score 25 goals."