FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – While his New England Revolution teammates will get some well-deserved rest this weekend, Jerry Bengtson will be playing one of the biggest games of his life.
Bengtson is expected to start for Honduras when Los Catrachos open their 2014 FIFA World Cup campaign against favored France on Sunday afternoon in Porto Alegre. Matches against South American up-and-comer Ecuador (June 20) and Group E top-seed Switzerland (June 25) will follow as Bengtson aims to help Honduras advance out of the group stage for the first time in the nation’s history.
The Hondurans will have plenty of crossover support from New England throughout their journey, including Revolution head coach Jay Heaps, who believes success on the world stage for CONCACAF sides would provide a boost for both the region and MLS moving forward.
“Honduras has worked really hard to get to where they are and it’d be nice to see them come out and make a run at this,” said Heaps. “I’m rooting for everyone in CONCACAF so that it strengthens the overall region.”
For Honduras to make a bit of noise in Brazil it’ll need a big contribution from Bengtson, who was the country’s leading scorer through World Cup qualifying with nine goals. The 27-year-old forward has a stellar strike rate with the full national team, scoring 19 goals in 44 career appearances.
The gravity of the occasion certainly won’t intimidate Bengtson, who shone on the world stage in the summer of 2012 when Honduras made a surprising run to the quarterfinals of the Olympics. Bengtson notched three goals in that competition, including the winner in a shock victory over Spain.
“There’s no question, he’s a gamer,” Heaps said of Bengtson, who hasn’t yet found the same form in New England that he’s had with Honduras. “He likes the big games and he plays well in those big games.”
A strong performance for Bengtson at the World Cup could be a boon for the Revs, who’ll hope the striker returns to New England full of confidence heading into the second half of the MLS season.
But according to Heaps, Bengtson and the entire group of players representing MLS in Brazil – 22 in total – have already accomplished so much, regardless of the results during the course of the next month.
“It’s not always just doing well; it’s also making the teams,” Heaps said. “I credit MLS for even getting the teams that are from CONCACAF into the World Cup. I look at what MLS has done for the U.S. team and how far they were able to go, and you have to credit MLS for that.
“It’s a great honor to be in the World Cup, so for MLS to be represented is huge.”